Coyotes fans love Mike Smith for a number of reasons. He’s impressive, he doesn’t get flustered, and- most of all- he’s funny. The Kingston native is one of only seven goaltenders in NHL history to score a goal during a game, and is only the third goalie to record a shutout for two different teams in the same season.
(Of course, it was only two months later that THIS happened):
We try to forget that, though.
Smith started his hockey career backing up a familiar name for Bruins and Leafs fans: when he was seventeen, he served as backup netminder for the Kingston Frontenacs- to future NHL star Andrew Raycroft. He quickly moved to the Sudbury Wolves, though, where he would remain until being drafted in 2001 by the Dallas Stars.
Smith’s time with the Stars got off to a shaky start- despite scoring a goal on an empty net during his professional debut, he still spent the majority of that season either playing for the Lexington Man-O-Wars in the ECHL or splitting the backup position for the Utah Stars. He was only twenty when he scored his first goal, making him the youngest goaltender to score a goal in a professional game, but he didn’t see ice time for Dallas until three years later. Even then, he served as a backup goaltender for both Dallas AND Tampa Bay, who received him in the mid-season trade that saw Brad Richards head to Texas.The Bolts didn’t even keep him in the NHL for the duration of his tenure with them; he spent a season playing for the Norfolk Admirals. Smith didn’t even get a chance to start in goal until signing with the Coyotes in 2011.
The signing was well worth it, though. The Coyotes were able to pick up Smith for a relative steal, signing him for only a two-year, $4 million-dollar deal at the start of the 2011 season. Quite a bargain, considering he led the team to a 4-2 series victory over the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2012 playoffs. This would be the first playoff series won by the team while in Phoenix, in addition to the team’s first division championship. The team went on to beat the Nashville Predators as well, finally losing to the LA Kings in the Conference finals in a 4-1 series loss.
Smith has become an integral part of the Coyotes family, but is finally gaining recognition in the NHL community, as well. For the first time in his career, he was a member of Team Canada during the 2014 Olympics, becoming the third goaltender alongside Roberto Luongo and Carey Price.
What can we look forward to from Smith next season? with his save percentage only increasing over time, it’s safe to say that the Coyotes could be prepping for another future playoff run with the netminder. His experience training for Sochi can’t have hurt him- or the team- either. His confidence is growing, and with his first season of a shiny, new, $34 million six-year contract under his belt, the newly revamped Arizona team can expect to see some spectacular saves coming up.