Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Smithson embodies Preds' work ethic



The Nashville Predators have long been known as a team that wins games by out-working the opponent. All of the 29 other teams in the NHL know that playing against Nashville means playing against a team that will bring a high intensity level for the entire game. It's the way that Barry Trotz's teams have always played. It's the "Predator way."

Jerred Smithson is the poster child of the "Predator way." He never takes a night off, and is one of the most tenacious defensive forwards in the league. Smithson is one of the best penalty killers in the NHL, and excels in winning faceoffs. He's a fearless shot blocker, and isn't afraid to sacrifice his body for the sake of the team. Smithson does whatever he has to do to make sure that his team has a chance to win every game.

"It's the only way that I know how to play and can play to be effective," Smithson said.

Smithson embraces his role in Nashville. He knows that each member of the team has their own set of skills that make the team successful.

"Some guys are better at scoring goals, some guys are tough, and some guys have to really work to get things done. For me to be successful, I have to play with energy. I have to play physical, and I have to sacrifice," Smithson said. "It just feels good to be able to contribute any way I can."

Throughout his NHL career, Smithson has never been much of an offensive force. In 485 career NHL games, Smithson only has 85 points in his career. He's never had more than 16 points in a single season. But that doesn't define him.

Smithson is the guy that is out there in the tough situations. He's the guy that will give that extra effort to make key plays that sometimes go unnoticed. He doesn't play for the limelight. He plays for the win.

However, that hard-working style of play doesn't stop him from wanting to be more of an offensive force. Smithson wants to help his team on both ends of the ice.

"I want to contribute offensively when I can. Obviously there are guys that are better at it, but whenever I get the chance I want to be able to do it and be able to help out," Smithson said.

Smithson got that chance in the overtime period of Game 5 in last year's Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Anaheim Ducks. He was able to score arguably the biggest goal in the history of the Nashville Predators. It was almost like something out of a movie. A man who puts in all of the work, all of the time, and does all of the little things to make his team successul gets rewarded. But in typical Jerred Smithson fashion, he was focused on the team rather than himself.

"That was such a hard-fought series and could've easily went either way. Both teams laid it out there, and it was so much fun to be a part of to be able to compete and to battle like that. To come out on top was a great feeling. We've been on the other side of that spectrum before and it's not a great feeling so for us to finally pull it out was a great accomplishment," Smithson said.

At 32 years of age, Smithson is the oldest forward on the Nashville Predators' roster. Overall, the Preds' have a very young team this year. Smithson is the perfect role model for the young players on how to have a successful NHL career.

"For a guy coming in, I think it's important just to keep an even keel. There are nights when you're going to be on top of the world, and there are nights when things aren't going to go your way. It's a long season. It's important to put that last game behind you and learn from it, whether it's a positive or negative. Go out there, work hard, and just enjoy it," Smithson said.

Smithson has confidence in the young players that are currently on Nashville's roster. While they may appear young to the rest of the league, they do have a considerable amount of experience.

"With the guys we have, they are young but they do have experience. There are a few that are new to the league, and maybe I can help them out a little here and there. They are pretty seasoned for being rookies, and they kind of know what to do and what to expect," Smithson said.

Smithson might never be the guy who receives accolades and awards at the end of the year. However, he enjoys his role on the team and knows how fortunate he is to be playing the game he loves.

"It's the best league in the world. You never know when it will end so it's important to enjoy it and enjoy your time at the rink. Just go out there, work hard, and have fun," Smithson said.

That is the kind of player that every coach loves. That's the kind of player that every fan loves. That's the "Predator way."

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