When all else has failed, Arizona Coyotes’ goaltender Mike Smith has remained consistent through the first three months of the season.
The Arizona Coyotes brass must be quite pleased with Mike Smith.
He’s been the backbone of the team in the 21 games he’s been in net.
Some would argue he’s looked like the Smitty of old.
In the The Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee sees Frodo Baggins struggling with the weight of the One Ring and tells his friend, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”
That’s Mike Smith in the locker room with his fellow Coyotes before every game.
While they struggle to score, he ensures the games remain within striking distance.
When turnovers come his way, and boy do they ever come his way this season, Smitty has stood tall and been the steady backstop that former general manager Don Maloney thought he was signing to a long term deal after the 2011-12 season.
He’s also turned up his intensity meter to 11.
Smith isn’t the only goalie to do so this season, but he’s become increasingly cagey with the opposition as they take liberties on his person and his team often fails to respond appropriately.
Last night was a good example of that, as he tried to drop the glove and blocker with Radek Faksa after an altercation in his crease.
Faksa laughed off the challenge from Smitty, but Smitty didn’t seem to be bluffing.
Three months into this season, it seems clear that the Arizona Coyotes would possibly be en route to their worst season in franchise history – yes, worse than 2014-15 – without Mike Smith playing at such a high level.
He’s single-handedly willing them out of the bottom spot in the NHL standings.
Some pundits argue that he might be trying a little too hard for John Chayka and ownership’s liking.
While that seems unlikely, the thought does raise a very valid point.
Mike Smith’s play, should it continue at this level, will be the biggest reason the Arizona Coyotes do not finish with the worst record in the NHL.
The fact that he’s playing this well behind a team so bad is mind boggling.
For an organization with several recent near misses in the draft lottery, having another terrible season and yet again missing out on the top prizes of Nolan Patrick and Timothy Liljegren could be a scary thought.
On the other hand, for fans of the Arizona Coyotes, Mike Smith is very nearly the only player on the roster worth paying for a ticket to see in 2016-17.
Vintage Smitty is back on the ice in Glendale.
We don’t know for how long, but whether it costs draft position or not we’re damn glad to see it.