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Under Pressure: Mike Smith

Aug 10, 2014, 10:13 AM EDT

Mike Smith Getty Images

The Coyotes took a big chance when they signed goaltender Mike Smith to a six-year, $34 million contract in the summer of 2013. They were betting on him being one of the league’s top goaltenders and that’s not what he was last season.

Before making the trip to Arizona, Smith had struggled to establish himself as a starting goaltender, but he broke out in 2011-12 with a 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage in 67 games. He was just as effective in the playoffs and led the Coyotes to the conference finals for the first time in their history.

He wasn’t nearly as effective in the shortened campaign though, which raised questions about whether his 2011-12 performance would ultimately prove to be an aberration. Clearly the Coyotes decided that Smith had more great seasons in him as the small market team locked him up.

The first year of his new contract wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t great either. He was inconsistent and posted a 2.64 GAA and .915 save percentage in 62 games before an MCL sprain ended his season.

“Goaltending through the middle of the season for me wasn’t where it needed to be,” Smith admitted in April, per the Arizona Republic. “I was kind of doing some soul-searching, and we lost some games because of that.”

Smith suggested that part of the problem was that the Olympics were looming and he wasn’t sure if he would make Team Canada, so that put extra pressure on him. While those exact circumstances obviously won’t repeat in 2014-15, it’s still fair to say that a lot will be riding on Smith this season.

The Coyotes might not be searching for owners anymore, but the team still needs to grow its fanbase in Glendale as quickly as possible to prove that hockey can thrive there. The best way to attract an audience is with a great on-ice product and whether or not the Coyotes are playoff contenders will largely rest on Smith’s shoulders.

If the 32-year-old goaltender is anything less than great in 2014-15, then this could be another problematic season for Arizona.

  1. georgejarkko - Aug 10, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    This dude flops more than Vlade Divacs. Still, that contract is looking fairly reasonable these days.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:07 AM

      I have not watched him through a lot of games, and the flop he did against the Hawks in the playoffs was incredible. Puck was free behind the net. Smith went for it.

      Rookie Andy Shaw went for it – not in control, and in the tight space behind the net, when Smith got there 1st, it was too late for Shaw to abort to abort.

      Shaw hit Smith, with no appearant malice.

      Smith went down and lay mostly unmoving for about 5 min.

      JUST long enough for the refs to declare a game misconduct.

      The the “””””miracle””””” happened. Smith arose from the seemingly unconscious state and played great the rest of the game.

      Despite having had concussions before, somehow the percussion protocol was not put into effect. Hmmmmm

      For those who don’t get the Vlade Divac reference, here’s a great clip (actually on point, unlike most from the Blom dude)

  2. cgaz87 - Aug 10, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Smitty will be fine. Last season the team was inconsistent as a whole. At times the team was lost on defensive side of the puck which will be an aberration under Tip. Smitty will bounce back by posting solid numbers and also be a key part of transitioning the puck back up the ice with his supreme stick handling.

  3. tapefolie - Aug 10, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    Smith will be fine. They need to find some scoring and they can do that by trading Yandle. The Oilers have a great pool of young forwards that would look good in the Yotes sweater!

  4. jhuck92 - Aug 10, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Overrated and flops like LeBron. He’ll be exposed for what he really is this season

  5. jacketsfan7 - Aug 10, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    At least he scored his first NHL goal last year

  6. drivemekrejci - Aug 11, 2014 at 4:25 AM

    Under pressure and over rated. Guy had one good year, which he will probably not repeat the rest of his career. ARZ will be in dead last place this year, easily.

    • paulerhythm - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:32 AM

      Dead last place easily? Put the pipe down, go outside and gulp some fresh air…come back when you come to your senses.

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