Business as usual for Smid

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid says he hasn't made any contingency plans to play hockey...

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid says he hasn't made any contingency plans to play hockey if there's an NHL lockout this fall. (QMI Agency/IAN KUCERAK)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

EDMONTON - For Ladislav Smid, it’s business as usual.

The Edmonton Oilers defenceman is preparing for the upcoming season, despite the labour unrest, looking forward to taking on an even bigger role with the club.

Last year Smid took a giant step with the Oilers, transforming his game and becoming a gritty, tough, shutdown defenceman.

“I’ve been working out like usual for the past three or four months,” said Smid, who’s taking part in Perry Pearn’s three-on-three conditioning camp at the Knights of Columbus Arena. “Hopefully training camps will be opening in September.”

Acquired in the trade that sent Chris Pronger to the Anaheim Ducks, Smid will be heading into his seventh season with the Oilers, if and when it gets underway.

Like every other play in the league, Smid is in a holding pattern waiting for the NHL and its players association to come to terms on a new bargaining agreement. He has yet to make plans if the two sides can’t agree on a new deal prior to current contract expiring on Sept. 15, resulting in a lockout.

“I’ve never really thought about it yet, we’ll see what’s going to happen,” Smid said. “If they look pretty close to making a deal, then the guys are going to wait it out. If they’re not, I guess guys are going to start looking for jobs in Europe.”

Smid was still a junior, playing with a club in the Czech Republic during the previous lockout. He’s been in North America since 2005, but wouldn’t rule out a return to Europe if the NHL does not operate this season.

“The buzz I’ve heard around the league is it’ll be like it was the previous lockout,” Smid said. “Some guys went to play in Switzerland, some guys went to play in Sweden. There are some KHL teams going to be interested in guys from the NHL. It’s always great for the European market when they can bring in guys from the NHL. It’ll be great for fans in Europe.”

Regardless, when the puck is eventually dropped, Smid is expected to once again take on a big role on the Oilers blue line.

The former ninth overall pick, who was once traded by the Oilers only to have Dany Heatley kibosh the deal, has become arguably the team’s top shutdown defenceman.

Ironically, in becoming a stay-at-home shutdown type, Smid posted the best offensive numbers of his career, scoring five goals and adding 10 assists.

The native of Frydlant, Czech Republic, had gone four seasons with just one goal prior to that.

“I feel really confident about my year last year, I just want to build from that,” Smid said. “I worked extremely hard this summer and I just want to get out on the ice. I don’t want to wait until November or December, but we’ll see.”

With Ralph Krueger behind the Oilers bench this upcoming season, Smid will be playing for his fourth coach in Edmonton.

Krueger had spent the previous two seasons as the team’s associate coach under Tom Renney.

“Ralph is a great guy, I can only say positive things about him,” Smid said. “He’s optimistic, he’s intense, he’s going to hold us accountable. Basically everyone is going to start from zero, everyone is going to have to earn their jobs and their ice time.”

Notes … The Oilers have reportedly made contract extension offers to both Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The two are the cornerstones of the team’s rebuilding phase. Eberle led the Oilers in scoring with 73 points, while Hall finished second with 53 in an injury-shortened season.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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