Last October when the free agency frenzy began, the Boston Bruins and general manager Don Sweeney was looking for a middle-six forward that would help with the Bruins’ long problems of secondary scoring.
Sweeney was able to sign Craig Smith to a three-year, $9 million contract after the 31-year-old spent the first nine years of his career with the Nashville Predators. Smith came with a reputation as someone who is not afraid to shoot the puck from anywhere on the ice at any time. In 661 career games with the Preds, he ripped 1,694 shots on the net.
In his final season of 2019-20 in Nashville, he scored 18 goals in 69 games in the shortened season as a top-six forward. In five of his nine seasons in the Music City, he scored at least 20 goals five times, with 25 begin his career-hight in 2017-18.
Smith found his goal-scoring touch on the Bruins’ second-line.
Smith struggled to get his feet under him in his first season with the Black and Gold as he started the season on the third line with Charlie Coyle. After injuries to the Bruins’ top-six started to pile up, coach Bruce Cassidy moved him to the second line.
Smith, who played in 54 of the 56 regular-season games, scored 13 goals which was good enough to finish fifth on the team in lamplighters behind Brad Marchand (29), Patrice Bergeron (23), David Pastrnak (20), and Nick Ritchie (15). He finished with 19 assists, which was sixth on the team.
Not only did Smith contribute in the offensive end, but he also turned into a good two-way player for the Bruins and finished with a plus/minus of plus-21. He had 132 shots on the net and averaged 14:53 of ice time a night.
The Bruins’ second-line took off following the trade on April 11 of Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres and Smith’s game improved as well. David Krejci became a different player with the addition of Hall and Smith got more scoring opportunities and capitalized on them.
Smith was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 Entry Draft at No. 98 and the Madison, Wisconsin native is projected to be a 20-25 goal scorer a year and if this was a full 82-game season, he would have come close to that.
When the Bruins signed Smith, they were hoping to upgrade their middle-six production and that’s what they got. They hope he can carry it over to a full season in 2021-22.