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Devante Smith-Pelly’s Depth Role
After several speed bumps in the early stages of the season, what some are calling a Stanley Cup hangover, one thing the Washington Capitals still have going for them is depth. Coach Todd Reirden has the ability to shuffle lines and mix up combinations as well as move talent between the D.C. organization and the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
With the focus often on the top two lines and names like Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov, the third and fourth lines often fly under the radar. For a team to be fully functional, those lines need to be firing and players such as 2017/18 playoff superstar Devante Smith-Pelly need to perform their role completely.
On the Caps’ third line alongside Lars Eller and Brett Connolly, Smith-Pelly has opportunities to do all sorts of things, including shutting down top talent from the other teams, penalty killing, and even scoring when opponents least expect it.
With the penalty kill having issues, and with two goals, two assists and a total of four points in 16 games so far this season, Smith-Pelly has not exactly been overachieving, like he did in last season’s playoffs. With recent losses against the Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes, while the Caps currently sit in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division, Washington should be looking closer at the depth guys to produce, and Smith-Pelly is one of them.
Demonstrating a sense of loyalty to the organization, Smith-Pelly turned down other lucrative offers to remain with the Capitals on a one-year, $1 million contract. “It wasn’t worth it to leave somewhere where I’m happy and somewhere where I really want to be,” he told SportsNet. “The money to me personally is not that important if I’m not going to be happy somewhere else.”
The challenge for Smith-Pelly as the grind of a new season kicks in is going to be the inevitable comparisons to his stellar seven-goal playoff effort last season. Those kinds of achievements will be tough to match, especially with the adrenaline of a dream playoff run in the history books. Smith-Pelly does not need to even perform to that level to be effective during the regular season, but as the losses pile up, it’ll be easier to shuffle him around, and even bench him, if things don’t take a turn for the better.
With only 16 games played in a long season, Smith-Pelly’s role is highly valued and his loyalty to the squad and organisation is impressive. When he turns on the burners, he is exciting to watch, and we can only hope he kicks it up a notch if things don’t take a turn for the better.