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Providence the perfect spot for Smotherman

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

Jordan Lavallee-Smotherman recently got his best scouting report of the summer, from a friend. The basic message was that Smotherman wasn’t nearly as whacked out as he had been in recent off-seasons.

For Smotherman, that passes for great news these days.

Smotherman, a power forward, has signed an AHL deal with Providence. He claims to be approaching this season with a peace of mind that was hard to come by the last two seasons.

Two seasons ago, he was coming off a 2007-08 campaign that saw him score 20 goals and 42 points for the Chicago Wolves. He thought that production earned him serious consideration for a spot in Atlanta the next season, but when he didn’t get it, he dropped to 18 goals in Chicago.

"I set my expectations very high," said Smotherman, 24. "When those expectations weren’t met, I get down on myself."

That season was shattered to a much greater degree by the death of Smotherman’s father. Smotherman was traded to the Syracuse Crunch before the start of the 2009-10 season and claimed to be coping with the tragedy. But he was understandably distracted all season and pressed his way to a 10-goal, 32-point effort in Syracuse.

"Everything caught up to me. I wasn’t sleeping at night. I lost who I was as a person," Smotherman said. "I never gave myself the time to step back and let things sink in."

Smotherman started talking to a sports psychologist last season, and he began compiling a checklist of things that had made him successful in his career. Before each game he reviewed it to narrow down his reminders to specific objectives.

He finished the season at a clip appropriate for an NHL prospect — four goals and 12 assists in 17 games.

"I kind of hit a low during the season," he said. "I felt like I was playing the worst hockey I had played in my professional career. I needed to step back and evaluate."

Smotherman’s landing in Providence should be a soft one. He lives in a suburb of Boston, and has family and friends nearby. In fact, P-Bruins owner H. Larue Renfroe was Smotherman’s coach in junior hockey for several years.

"I’m very excited about the opportunity. I was looking for a way to join the organization all summer," Smotherman said. "I’m going to be surrounded by people I’ve known for a few years."

Lindsay Kramer is the AHL correspondent for NHL.com. Read today’s complete column here.