Jeremy Smith likes the saying “winning is a habit.”
He would know well, too, having accomplished quite a bit in his brief professional career. The 24-year-old native of Dearborn, Mich. was one of the top goaltenders in the Ontario Hockey League with Plymouth in 2006-07 when he shared the league’s top goaltender award with Michal Neuvirth, who is now playing for the Washington Capitals.
TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
Smith also won a Kelly Cup championship with the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL) in 2010 and was named the playoff tournament MVP. A year later he was in the American Hockey League and made all but one start for the Milwaukee Admirals, top affiliate for the Nashville Predators.
It was in the Predators organization that Smith said he learned invaluable information about goaltending from longtime coach Mitch Korn, who has had some star pupils – most notably Pekka Rinne – and developed some of the top goalies in the business.
But he’s equally excited to begin a new chapter with the Blue Jackets and goaltending coach Ian Clark, who worked with a Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky and helped Curtis McElhinney get back to top form last season.
“I think this was the best fit for me, quite honestly,” Smith told BlueJackets.com. “Just looking at the coaching staff with Ian Clark and the success he’s had with Bobrovsky and (winning) the Vezina, this is a place I really wanted to play. Mitch and his staff did a phenomenal job in helping me and my career, and I can’t thank them enough. They’re amazing coaches and they really know the position well.
“They taught pretty much everything I know about the position and really broke down my game. But now, I’m excited to work with Clarkie. It’s a different approach, but I like it. It’s going to be a challenge for me but I think it will better my game in the long run.”
Thursday morning marked Smith’s first session with Clark and it was a good one, he said. They worked on several elements of his game including rotations, pushes and movements that Smith hopes will improve the overall structure of his game.
And if he’s in top form, it should help the other member of the goaltending tandem (and vice versa). Mike McKenna, also a free-agent signing this summer, is likely to pair with Smith in Springfield to start the season and help the Falcons in building on a terrific season in 2012-13.
Today, we worked on some small things that, by osmosis, we’ll work into my game. Mostly it was just some simple rotational stuff and pushes – the structural parts of my game.
“You want to go to a team that wins, and to be the goalie for a team like that, it’s the most important position on the ice,” Smith said. “You directly affect everything that goes on in a game. I think it’s a great opportunity for me and for Mike, as well; we’ll work with each other to make the other better and vie for that position.
“We’re not the ones who choose who plays – that’s for the coaches. We never have hard feelings toward each other and you want the other guy to win when he’s in, and when the team wins, everyone wins.”