If you are a hockey fan, there are some things you must have. One is a jersey from your favorite player or team. Get a few signatures on it, and you have an emotional bond. Wear that jersey to a momentous game, and that jersey can never be replaced. You also need Center Ice. Being able to watch every game is a god send when you want to follow the team from your youth on a night the Coyotes are off or played an early game. Listening to the announcing team you remember instantly can transport you to where you were and what you were doing years ago. And you must have NHL Home Ice on the Sirius XM satellite radio.
Scott Laughlin hosts a segment called In The Slot with Phil Esposito. Phil is a legend and great on the radio. Scott knows hockey but is also a radio man. He knows how to take the question, feed it to Phil, and get out of the way and let Phil talk. Phil is emotional on some issues, funny and irreverent at times, but always as knowledgable as could be. He got a team started in the Tampa Boy Lightning, went to investors to get money. Was the GM and knows about the difficulty in signing players and handling agents. He built a team and now is the color analyst. Phil will always share his opinion and has a love for the game and players who play in a way that respects the game and themselves.
Earlier this week, they had on Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney. After talking about the previous season of Mike Smith, including the benching, the demotion to the AHL, the being put on waivers. All those were covered. Then a special moment occurred. The question was asked of Don in what they saw in Mike Smith. Mike immediately asked Phil what Tampa Bay saw in him as they traded with Dallas to get him. Mike was the key part of the trade that sent he and Jokan Holmqvist to Dallas for Mike Smith, Jossi Jukinen, Jeff Halpern, and a 4th round draft pick.
Phil mentioned his athleticism. His ability to make a lunging save he should have never reached, but then he lets the next three shots in. He had trouble blocking low shots but had a great glove and blocker. But he was jumpy. Would jump around and be too far outside the net. That is why the got him, and why they let him go. GMDM said that they looked at every goalie available, but decided on Smith for his talent, his athleticism, his hard work, and the fact they had Sean Burke. Smith presented the biggest upside. And they had Sean Burke to work with him.
What have we seen this season? Smith started off struggling with the low shot. He ends the year as a wall. Shoot it low, he will gather the puck and make an outlet pass as well as any defensemen. Shoot it high, his flashes the leather and snares it out of the air. His moment is muted. He doesn’t wander out too much to make a stop. He will wander to play the puck. He conserves his movement. His work ethic is amazing. And Sean Burke has been able to quiet the body and the mind. GMDM did comment that Smitty is now 30 years old and with a baby. It calmed him down and made him the player that he is. He is coachable and striving to get better.
Sean Burke will never get the recognition or glory he deserved. The first goalie he worked with was put on waivers after being benched in the playoffs. He now gets 7 million a year to be a comedian in Philadelphia. The second is Mike Smith. Not a bad way to start your coaching career.