With as many defencemen as Edmonton used to have on its roster, Ladislav Smid could have been down in the minors forever.
But one by one they started to fall. First Sheldon Souray got hurt. Then Joni Pitkanen got hurt. Then a lot of the remaining defencemen started playing like they were hurting big time.
So Craig MacTavish had no choice but to punch Smid's return ticket.
"I'm happy to be back," said the 21-year-old blueliner before his first game back with the team that cut him in training camp.
"They've been having trouble with the defence so I hope I'm going to help."
Smid was supposed to be here all season, of course. He looked like he'd earned his bones on the strength of a 77-game campaign last year.
But, unlike today, head coach Craig MacTavish was dealing from a position of strength back in training camp and had better options than Smid.
"It was really disappointing ... I played last year," said Smid, who thought he had made the team automatically, which probably ended up costing him his roster spot.
"But I'm still a young guy, not a veteran. I needed to improve a couple of things, that's why they sent me down - to work on my defensive game. It was a pretty good experience for me."
By most accounts, Smid was average upon his arrival in Springfield, but picked up his game over the last couple of weeks.
"I found my confidence again," he said.
With Smid back in the lineup last night somebody had to sit, and the short straw went to Dick Tarnstrom.
"You always want to play," said Tarnstrom. "But they'll give some of the young guys a shot. I'm understand that. But, of course I'm disappointed."