New Jersey Devils: Is Ty Smith A Sophomore Slump Or A Long-Term Problem?

New Jersey Devils defenseman Ty Smith (24) clears the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils defenseman Ty Smith (24) clears the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils have a lot of problems to fix before next season, but near the top is getting Ty Smith back on track.

It’s been a bad year for New Jersey Devils defenseman Ty Smith. Whether you are using the eye test, analytics, advanced chemistry, or any other metric, they all point to a really bad season for the second-year player. Smith has been prone to serious mistakes, and he’s been the sole reason for more goals on the team than anyone who’s not the goalie. It’s not clear if Smith’s instincts are just off, or if he’s trying to execute a game plan that doesn’t suit him.

Whatever it is, the Devils need to fix it. The Devils don’t really have a lot of young defensemen outside of Luke Hughes who could be the future here. Dougie Hamilton is signed for six more years after this one at a huge cap number, so he’s obviously part of the plan. Damon Severson is still just 27 years old, so he theoretically could be here for a longer time. Reilly Walsh, Shakir Mukhamadullin, Kevin Bahl, and Nikita Okhotyuk could turn into something. However, the one guaranteed young asset on the Devils was supposed to be Smith.

After a phenomenal juniors career with Spokane of the WHL, Smith had a great rookie season with New Jersey. Due to the Devils falling out of the playoff race quite quickly. He still finished seventh in Calder Trophy voting. He beat out all other rookie defensemen.

Smith seemed like someone who had the sky as his limit. He could play the powerplay while also contributing offense at even strength. He didn’t need certain situations to contribute. Smith was always seemingly in the right position. It was his hockey intelligence that made it seem like a long-term solution on the back end.

This season, Smith is straight up a liability.

The New Jersey Devils need to figure out what to do with Ty Smith.

When looking at the overall impact of his game, Smith doesn’t look that bad. However, it is the consistent mistakes he makes on the defensive end that really ruin his season. Maybe he is putting together more average to above average shifts than not, but when he has a bad shift, it almost always ends up in the back of the net.

Four players have allowed more total chances than Smith. However, he leads the team in high-danger chances against. When he’s allowing teams into the zone, he’s doing a terrible job of stopping them from making something happen. There are four other skaters on the ice and a goalie who could help stop the puck, but Smith’s main job is to stop them from getting there.

The big question is now “is this fixable?” Can the Devils fix Ty Smith before next season, and how do they do that? The Devils do have a chance to send him down to the minors for one more season without losing him to waivers. They could just allow him to find his game in Utica. The Utica Comets could use an influx of talent, and Smith would play that role perfectly.

If they do want to keep him in the NHL, Smith has to play better. He’s contributing to the Devils record more than he’s like to know. It can be fixed, the Devils just have to figure out how it can happen. A sophomore slump could absolutely be what happened. Smith comes into an offense that was once a perfect fit, and now something doesn’t fit. Or, the Devils will have to realize they ruined a very good asset. Smith was supposed to be one of the future pillars of this franchise. Now, he’s a distressed asset.