The Toronto Maple Leafs have nothing to lose by signing Jerred Smithson to the roster. Given all the injuries the Maple Leafs have endured down the middle, Smithson provides a low-risk, high-reward solution for the club.
Playing with the Toronto Marlies to begin the year, Smithson will be asked to play fourth-line minutes and provide some support on the penalty kill. He’ll also be highly depended on for his excellent ability to win face-offs, something Toronto will desperate need with Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland out of the lineup.
Smithson will likely play the Jay McClement role for the team with McClement likely to play a bigger role due to the injuries at center. McClement has earned a reputation as being one of Toronto’s strongest defensive players. He’s depended on to take big face-offs and often finds himself playing the majority of the penalty kills.
McClement’s game is somewhat quiet on the offensive side, but that doesn’t bother Coach Randy Carlyle one bit as he does a lot of the little things needed for the Maple Leafs to have success.
Toronto will be hoping Smithson can help provide a lot of the little things needed to win games as well since they didn’t sign him to score goals for the club. Smithson is known for his defensive abilities, and if he can compete hard without trying to do too much offensively, he’ll fit in fine.
Carlyle knows what Smithson can bring to a team, having played against him in the 2010-11 playoffs. Smithson was a key contributor with the Nashville Predators when they defeated the Carlyle-coached Anaheim Ducks in a six game series. Smithson scored the game-winning goal in the fifth game of the series and went perfect in the face-off dot in the series-clinching game.
Since he’s already made an impression with Carlyle given their history, it’s doubtful that the Toronto coach will be shy to use Smithson. He shouldn’t have to ease him into game action given that he was playing in the AHL, but he also doesn’t really have the option to ease him in anyway. Smithson will have to play right away due to Maple Leafs’ desperate need for help at center that has made them consider playing James van Riemsdyk down the middle.
This is Smithson’s best chance at maintaining a job at the NHL level. No team is more desperate for what he can provide to a club than Toronto. As long as he doesn’t completely fall flat on his face, Smithson should be able to stick around with the Maple Leafs. If he pans out, then the team has added depth with their bottom-six forwards. If he doesn’t pan out, it didn’t cost the team any assets to acquire him, so releasing him wouldn’t be a problem.