Smith hoping to build off a solid first NHL season
CALGARY, AB -- While Derek Smith's year came to a premature close due to injuries, the defenceman's first full season in the NHL can be classified as a resounding success.
The Flames signed Smith to a one-year, two-way deal in the summer of 2011 after the Ottawa Senators failed to re-sign him. The 27 year-old came into training camp relatively unknown and most believed he would spend the majority of the season in Abbotsford.
However, Smith's steady, dependable play turned quite a few heads and when the season kicked off in October, his name was on the roster sheet. In 47 games in Flames silks this year, Smith scored two goals and 11 points.
"I couldn't really find a home in the NHL in Ottawa," he said. "Things worked out here and I got the opportunity to play and just tried to make the most of it.
"Calgary's home now. I'm definitely excited to establish myself here. I'm looking forward to next year.
He was rewarded for his solid play in February when the Flames signed him to a two-year, one-way contract.
“When Mark Giordano went down with his hamstring injury, Smitty stepped-up and shouldered an increased workload and did so in excellent fashion," Flames general manager Jay Feaster said at the time. "He is a sound two-way hockey player with very good hockey sense, and he has seamlessly fit into the chemistry of our team. We are very pleased to have him signed for the next two seasons, and we look forward to his continued development as a player."
Smith would have suited up for quite a few more games if it wasn't for some extremely bad luck. He sat out for extended periods of time twice due to injuries.
On Dec. 29 in a game against the New York Islanders, Smith fell awkwardly and suffered a high ankle sprain. He missed close to two months as he recovered. He returned in late February but just over a month later, he was back in the sick bay.
He took a puck to the face on Mar. 20 in a clash with the Colorado Avalanche and while he did dress for the following game against the Minnesota Wild, it became apparent his injury was more serious than he first thought.
He only put in 5:37 of ice time against Minnesota on Mar. 22 and that would end up being his final game of the season.
"Since then, everything hasn't been feeling that good. It's just taking it day-by-day now, just trying to get better."
Smith has been extremely cautious with his rehab process as he doesn't want re-aggravate the injury and have his summer training regimen cut short.
"Right now it's just taking time, resting and making sure everything is 100 per cent so when the summer gets going I can start doing some activity and stuff, I feel 100 per cent and there's going to be no setbacks."
While he has come a long way in a short period of time, Smith knows he can't take anything for granted as there will plenty of rookies trying to push for a roster spot like he was last fall.
"I've got to come into camp next year and be hungry - come in with the same mindset I did this year, to impress and hopefully just keeping working my way up the depth chart."