5FW Originals: Smyth Brings Veteran Leadership To Expansion Cutthroats

Long-time NHL and AHL forward Brad Smyth has returned from Europe to join the expansion CHL Denver Cutthroats. (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Welcome back, Brad Smyth.

After spending the past five seasons in Europe, the 39-year-old forward has returned to North America and will play for the Denver Cutthroats, a CHL expansion team.

“It’s been good to travel to different countries and improve as a hockey player, playing on a bigger ice surface,” said Smyth in a telephone interview.

“It was a very good transition over there, I enjoyed it. It just seems like if I was going to play in North America, I wanted to play somewhere where it would be starting from the ground up and an enjoyable experience. Hopefully we get off to a good start and go from there.”

While Smyth will be playing under friend and former teammate Derek Armstrong, he also will be taking on an assistant coach role as well, which is something he enjoyed while playing in the French mountains.

“My primary role is as a player,” Smyth said. “But I am a player/assistant, so I expect I’ll be doing a few things in practice and work with special teams. Hopefully, it’s a combination. But I fully expect to play, and I’ve been training to play, so we’ll see where it goes from there.”

With his career winding down — Smyth joked that his career is on the “back nine” while many of his new teammates are on the “front nine” — the NHL and AHL veteran is eventually looking to make a transition to a full-time coach.

“I’d like to give it a shot down the line and try to build something,” he said. At the same time, that’s why it’s a good fit because I still feel like I want to play for a couple more years and learn the other side of the game, which is important too. In Denver, there’s a good opportunity for that. You want to try to help the young guys as much as you can and see if they can become the best players they can be.”

Surely, the relatively inexperienced group the Cutthroats will be icing this year could stand to learn a lot from Smyth, who is entering his 19th professional season. The Ottawa native has scored over 500 goals while playing in the ECHL, IHL, AHL and NHL in addition to his experience overseas.

But while he reached the game’s highest level with the Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators and is a two-time 50 goal scorer at the AHL level, he has no thoughts of a return to the top two rungs of the hockey ladder.

“I don’t have any aspirations towards that at this point, I’m 39 and that’s not realistic anymore,” he said. “What’s realistic is playing good hockey at a high level in the Central Hockey League and just becoming a very good player that helps our team succeed right off the bat.”

What is realistic, however, is for Smyth to put up some big numbers at the CHL level, which is a notch below the AHL. Smyth himself, however, stayed humble when asked about the kind of production he’s capable of.

“At this point, I just wanted to be able to contribute,” he said.

“Usually my contribution comes in forms of offensive numbers, so I’ll be looking to do some of that. But I think it’s more of a situation of trying to get guys playing competitively each and every night. Obviously, you want to win more than you lose, so I think it’ll be more geared towards that at this point. But I’m looking forward to playing and seeing where I fit in on the team.”

The CHL has sent many players to the NHL, but it was the ECHL where Smyth got his start all the way back in 1993-94 with the Birmingham Bulls. With that league still in its formative years, only a handful of players graduated to the NHL at the time, but Smyth was one of the lucky few, and feels that experience can help him be a better teammate and coach in Denver.

“That’s part of the experience that maybe I can bring to Denver, where everyone has NHL aspirations and might not reach them, or they’re not there yet and they have to keep their spirits up and keep working hard,” he said.

“It’s definitely the mental aspect of the game, where maybe some people don’t notice or recognize where hopefully I can help them out with that in Denver.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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One Response to “5FW Originals: Smyth Brings Veteran Leadership To Expansion Cutthroats”

  1. 10/2/2012: Hockey Today « 5 For Writing by Mike Ashmore Says:

    […] Brad Smyth, who was set to start the season with the CHL-expansion Denver Cutthroats — as you read about in this original story —  is now going to attend AHL camp with the Lake Erie […]

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