Craig Smith in 2022
Key stats: 74 GP, 16G, 20A, 36PTS
Other stats: 8.6 S%, 55.4% CF (5v5), 44.8 xGF/60
Reader rating: 5.2
Writer rating: 5.3
When the Bruins signed Craig Smith a couple of summers ago, he was brought in to add a bit of reliable scoring touch to the Bruins’ middle six.
After all, he was a five-time 20+ goal scorer - not bad.
Smith’s first campaign as a Bruin was pretty good, as he scored at right around a 20-goal pace over the course of an 82-game season (he played just 54 games).
This year, his games-played mark rose significantly, but the scoring rate didn’t keep up.
The Bruins moved Smith around the lineup to try to help him find his scoring touch, even putting him on the first line for a spell.
And while the goals did come for Smith last year (16 goals isn’t an awful total), the consistency just wasn’t there.
Smith didn’t score his first goal until his 9th game of the season. He had multiple scoring droughts of 6+ games, including a 12-game drought in Feb/March and a 13-game drought to end the season.
When you take his playoff 0-fer into consideration, Smith hasn’t scored in his last 20 NHL games.
In fact, the vast majority of Smith’s production came during an early-March burst of offense, where he scored half of his goals (8 of 16) in a seven-game stretch.
To be fair, you can’t just discount those; however, that kind of lopsided-ness illustrates how streaky he ended up being.
A lack of power play production hurt Smith last year too, as he failed to score a PPG in a season for the first time in his 11-year NHL career.
There’s still an excellent shooter in Smith, and his streaky play last season showed that his explosive offense is still there — the Bruins just need to see more of it.
Smith could benefit from a more consistent partnership with probably linemates Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle. He should benefit immensely from the (presumed) return of David Krejci to the second power play unit.
It’s important for every player, but it feels extra important for Smith to get off to a good start this season. As a “shoot first” guy, his confidence being up can help a few more pucks find the back of the net.
As he turns 33 years old in a couple of weeks and is a UFA at season’s end, he’ll be playing for what’s likely to be his last shot at a multi-year, bigger money contract.
Here’s to hoping his 2022-2023 performance is good enough to earn him a big UFA payday, even if it’s not with the Bruins.