Red Wings Role Call: Givani Smith’s Future

Red Wings Role Call is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2021-22 Detroit Red Wings season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the just-completed campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Detroit. Today, we feature forward Givani Smith.

Givani Smith

Position: Forward

2021-22 totals (GP-GAP): 46-4-3-7

Contract Status: Signed through 2023 at $750,000 AAV

Season Synopsis

Givani Smith often provided the “tough guy” role for a team with few rough and tumble players. He scored a handful of goals and was always the first to sacrifice his body for the play.

And yet, it often felt like former head coach Jeff Blashill wasn’t always sure how to best utilize Smith. When asked specifically about him, Blashill praised his performance offensively.

“Both guys are big men,” Blashill said when asked about Smith and teammate Oskar Sundqvist. “All year long I think Givani has been pretty good in the O-zone. They forecheck hard, they get pucks, they get to the net, they’re hard at the net.”

But for someone who was good in the offensive zone, the numbers were pedestrian. Smith may end up being more of a “piano puller” in the mold of a Justin Abdelkader-like player. Smith was on the ice for an average of 8:28 before injuries shut his season down.

The onetime second round pick seems to have some upside, but a more defined role of what they want from him is probably one of the many things a new coach has to figure out.

2021-2022 Detroit Red Wings Highlights

Smith had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders back in December.

2021-22 Red Wings Lowlights

It’s only a lowlight because of all the scraps Smith had this season. He was hardly able to get a punch in against Zack MacEwan in the Red Wings victory over Philadelphia. If you listen to Bally Sports Detroit analyst Mickey Redmond, Smith really didn’t have much of a chance.

Which at times, seemed to foreshadow his likelihood of real minutes in Detroit.

What Does His Detroit Future Hold?

Though Blashill lauded Smith’s offensive prowess, it sure felt like he was pigeonholed into a more physical presence on a team that was on the wrong side of cheap shots and physical play. Though he fulfilled the role admirably, it’s fair to wonder what else has to offer–especially since Blashill pointed out his net front presence.

The Red Wings will likely be rotating players in and out via trade and free agency. How will Smith factor into their plans after the dust settles?

There’s also the insights of a new coach. Smith is a rugged forward who will not only come to the rescue of his teammates, but also score a goal here and there when given a little more ice time. Does it mean he’ll be a 20-goal scorer? Probably not.

But Smith can be the type of role player a growing team needs to help set the tone. Be it with a bone-crunching hit, screening the goalie while taking abuse for doing it, or potting a timely goal, there’s still some mystery to what Smith can ultimately bring to the team. It wasn’t long ago that his work in Grand Rapids showed promise for his future in Detroit.

So far, that promise hasn’t been met.

2022-23 certainly seems like a show-me year for Smith. Will he just be given the role of the guy who roughs up opponents, or will he get more opportunities to contribute offensively?

It’s certainly his best shot to stake his claim on the Red Wings roster. It could very well be his last chance to do so.

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