Thursday, April 1, 2010

Upset With Hobey Snub, Smith Signs With Wings

Needless to say I don't think anyone saw this coming. Earlier tonight I had heard rumors that Wisconsin junior defenseman Brendan Smith has been considering leaving the Badgers to jump to the NHL immediately.

My worst fears came true when I got a hold of Brendan only a few minutes ago on his cell. He had nothing but the utmost respect for Coach Eaves and the Badger program, but there was a number of reasons why he's leaving.

First of all, the Wings have signed him to an NHL rookie max contract and have promised to play him exclusively in the NHL during his 3 year entry level contract. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall has a broken wrist that is going to require surgery and he will be done for the season.

With the Wings in the heart of a playoff race, they had no choice but make the call to Smith. Smith is expected to step right into one of the power play units for the RedWings and should provide a youthful lift to the aging squad.

Another huge reason for Smith to sign now is that all rookies are required to sign a 3 year deal if they are drafted like Smith is. If Smith plays in the NHL now, this season counts as one of the 3 years. Therefore, Smith will reach free agency a year earlier than he would have if he finished out the season with the Badgers.

In talking with Smith, it was very apparent that he was upset over the Hobey snub. "Even with all the backing from writers like yourself, and the phenomenal season I had, the American writers snubbed me," said Smith, "If I was an American, there is no way I'm not a finalist. Let's face it, the voters hate Canada."

I can't say that I disagree with the man. It is a HUGE loss for the Badgers as they prepare for the Frozen Four to be played a week from Thursday in ironically Detroit, Michigan. Junior defenseman Craig Johnson who has played limited minutes this season but has played extensive minutes last season is expected to step into the lineup.

The RedWings next play on Thursday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets. Smith was in Detroit tonight for practice (see picture top left) and is expected to be in the lineup.

Smith was classy when I talked to him and also had this note for Badger fans, "I loved my time at Wisconsin and I appreciate your support. By the way, don't believe everything you read today, it is April 1st after all."