Have you seen this person? Missing since September 2009 from Tampa Bay Lightning lineup. (Photograph via cache3.asset-cache.net)
Carrying extra defensemen has worked out well for the Bolts. It's allowed David Hale to impress Rick Tocchet, it's allowed the team to absorb the loss of Paul Ranger without any noticeable issues... It's still a consistent chance to rotate d-men who need a rest or need to recover (namely rookie Victor Hedman after Thursday night's hit by Chris Neil).
And yet, it's kept defenseman Matt Smaby out of games.
You do remember Matt Smaby, don't you? Averaged 19:05 minutes a game last season, was one of the bright spots in an otherwise abysmal revolving door on defense? Signed to a one-way contract in the offseason? Yeah, him.
What's the deal here?
On October 7th, Matt was sent down to Norfolk on a two-week conditioning stint. That went in the wrong direction, however, after Smaby sustained the ambiguous upper-body injury during an Admirals/Albany River Rats game ...
But was cleared to play again weeks ago....?
If Matt sustained a concussion, then concerns are moot and "get well soon" is the appropriate answer... We all know that concussions are not as easily recovered from as other injuries sustained on the rink -- and seldom do they do more permanent harm.
But that's not the case, as Smaby is skating with the team in practices and participating with drills. What exactly is the deal here? Is he somehow in Rick Tocchet's dog house? Hard to imagine he's accomplished this with absolutely zero playing time this season in teh NHL, but Tocchet didn't exactly heap praise on Smaby early last month:
As for Smaby, "His camp was just okay, and right now there are people ahead of him. That's just the lay of the land. It has nothing to do with him being a bad defenseman; it's just we have a lot of depth at that position."
In other words, Tocchet said, "He just has to wait his turn."
Some may say that Lukas Krajicek is being showcased in order to move him in the near future... But does that excuse the Bolts from letting Smaby sit and rust on the bench? Maybe it's playing the veterans because they provide the best chance to win? Doesn't exactly hold water as the defense hasn't been a rock this season so far.
With Victor Hedman not skating in practices at Bell Centre Friday, Saturday looked like it may have been Smaby's first chance at playing time this season... It could be his turn...
So Smaby sits.
For whatever reason that is...