Former Flyers captain Jason Smith will announce his retirement this morning after 17 years in the NHL. Smith is widely regarded as one of the toughest and most respected players in recent memory.
Not the most talented defenseman in the world by a long shot, but for what he lacked in foot speed and stick handling he made up with guile, grit and leadership. Nicknamed Gator, (for his affinity to The University of Florida’s football team) Smith only spent one season in Philadelphia and was given the captaincy immediately upon his arrival. He had an up and down year in orange and black. In the first half of the 07-08 season Smith was getting first unit minutes and playing a key role in shutting down the oppositions top forwards. Towards the latter stretches and through the playoffs, Smiths’ body was battered and it showed in his on ice play. Smith left the Flyers prior to last season and signed on with the Ottawa Senators where he played the role of a depth defenseman and battled injuries the majority of the season.
He was most succesful in Edmonton, where he is the longest serving captian in team history and led them to a finals appearance in 06, losing in 7 games to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Smith is a dying breed in the NHL. A warrior who despite some physical limitations made the most of his ability and never backed down from any oppponent. A truly accountable player on and off the ice, his presence and veteran leadership were seriously missed this last disappointing year for the Flyers and Im sure the feeling will be the same in Ottawa over the next couple of months.
Side Note: Flyers rookie camp opens next week. I’ll have a preview up prior to the start of camp.