It didn’t take long for Steve Smith to land on his feet after resigning from the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. The Buffalo Sabres have announced they’ve hired the veteran assistant coach to join Phil Housley’s group, where he will take over defensive and penalty kill responsibilities.
There are few opportunities like this one for Smith, who will get to work directly with phenom defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as he begins his NHL career. Smith and Housley will be tasted with developing Dahlin into the perennial Norris candidate that many are projecting him to be, and they have quite a bit of experience between the two of them for the job. Housley of course is a Hall of Fame defenseman with 1,200 career points, but Smith was no slouch in his playing days and brings the knowledge of three Stanley Cups to the table. He was a key member of the Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier-led Edmonton Oilers championship teams, and finished his career with over 800 games played (and 2,100 penalty minutes).
Dahlin isn’t the only young defenseman that will be taken under Smith’s wing, as the team also boasts Brendan Guhle, Mattias Samuelsson and others coming through the system. Even Rasmus Ristolainen is still only 23, despite already having five seasons under his belt. The Sabres have struggled to put anything close to a championship-caliber blue line together for years, but can take a huge step towards that goal this season.