A stay-at-home defenceman who was selected by the California Golden Seals in the 1975 NHL Draft, Smith followed the franchise when it relocated to Cleveland in 1976, and when it folded in 1978 and merged with the Minnesota North Stars, where his rights were protected by the North Stars in the 1978 Cleveland-Minnesota Dispersal Draft. He played for Minnesota for three seasons, and his solid defensive play would help guide them to the finals in 1981.
Smith was traded to the Detroit Red Wings where he played for parts of five seasons until he was traded to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline of the 1985–86 NHL season. He played for the Capitals until his retirement at the end of the 1987–88 NHL season.
In the NHL, Smith played in 829 games and scored 56 goals and 232 assists.