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Saxon on the Storm: The big moose needs to turn it down a notch

Guelph Storm forward Givani Smith is taking way too many bad penalties

Givani Smith is a moose.

A big, strong hard-skating moose that plays the game of hockey hard and tough, traits that should allow him to have a long a prosperous future in the game of hockey.

He’s also a moose that is hurting his hockey team way too many times lately with bad penalties.

Smith leads the Ontario Hockey League with 118 penalty minutes this season. There were two fights in there, so the rest were all minors, 54 of them (10 minute misconducts aren’t counted).

Last year he also led the league with 146 penalty minutes, that included 53 minors in eight fights and that was in 65 games.

The fans are definitely noticing. His coaches are definitely noticing. I’m sure he and his teammates are noticing.

Some of it can be attributed to the way he plays the game.

Big players (Smith is a chiseled 6’2”, 210 lbs) - particularly in the OHL where there is often a disparity in the size and strength between many players - often get more penalties and attract the attention of referees more. You notice the moose in the room before you notice the rabbit.

What could be a normal hit can look much worse when one player holds a decided size advantage.

But too many times it’s just a bad decision.

Last Sunday in Flint was a perfect example.

Smith and Firebirds defenceman Jalen Smereck had a thing going from a game in Guelph a week before and Smith was clearly looking to get physical with Smereck in the ensuing encounter.

The result was a nasty hit near the boards for one penalty (close to a suspendable hit) and then in the dying minutes and his team pressing for the tying goal, he took a charging penalty on Smereck at centre ice behind the play.

Those weren’t accidents. They were conscious decisions. Bad ones.

Since-departed Storm player Jake Bricknell was sat out a couple of games early this season for exactly that reason: taking unnecessary penalties.

But it’s easier to not dress a third liner not in the future plans of the team than one of its stars who will be back next year.

Coach Jarrod Skalde hinted in Flint that something similar might happen to Smith, although he played Wednesday in Sarnia, a fact that might be due to the fact that the Storm had injury and suspension issues.

But all the talking, benching, practice bag skating and internet criticism in the world isn’t going to change things.

The only one that can do that is Smith.

You don’t want Smith change the way he plays the game, because he is one of the premier power forwards in junior hockey.

But you do want him to change the way he thinks the game.