Babcock was raving about Smith’s performance versus Leafs

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Never one to lavish undue praise on his players, it sure sounds like Mike Babcock enjoyed Brendan Smith’s performance in Monday’s 3-0 Detroit win over Toronto.

“I thought Smith was the best defenseman on the ice last night, bar none, on both teams, which is great,” Babcock said, per MLive. “I’ve never been able to say that about Smitty in an NHL game ever. A lot of NHL players played, I thought Smitty was great.”

A first-round pick in 2007, Smith is coming off his first pro season that was spent entirely in the NHL. The 25-year-old had five goals and 14 assists in 71 games for the Red Wings while averaging 18:23 of ice time.

Detroit’s defense continues to be a work in progress.

“We got guys coming,” Babcock said. “We need (Danny DeKeyser) to (progress); obviously we need (Niklas) Kronwall to have another big year. We want some push from the bottom. We think in (Alexey) Marchenko and (Xavier) Ouellet and (Ryan) Sproul and (Nick) Jensen and (Mattias) Backman that we have that.”