There’s no denying that the new seven-year, $49 million contract for Pekka Rinne is a lot of money. But when you have one of the world’s finest goaltenders at your disposal, you lock him up. This is especially true when you know he still has room to improve alongside the tutelage of Mitch Korn, one of the world’s finest goalie coaches.
But what does this contract mean for the future of Nashville’s other prized goalie, Anders Lindback? A restricted free agent at the end of the season, Lindback has terrific long-term upside and is currently #2 in our Top-150 Prospects Rankings. As of today, however, he has only appeared in one game this season, stopping 23-of-24 shots in a 40-minute relief effort on Oct. 20 against the Canucks.
Since I started writing for DobberHockey back in 2007, one lesson I constantly teach hockey fans is how important a quality goalie coach is to a team’s overall success. Their systematic approach in terms of how they manage their time, and what type of relationship they have with their goalies, plays a major role in not only how their goalies develop, but how the team as a whole performs.
Ironically, the night before Rinne signed his new contract, I wrote a blog about the influence goalie coaches are having on some of their students. With that in mind, here’s a great interview with Rinne and Terry Crisp discussing the deal. At the 3:00 mark, listen to what Rinne has to say about Korn as a coach, a friend and a supporter, both on and off the ice.
In order to learn more about how Rinne’s contract potentially influences the future of not only Lindback, but the rest of Nashville’s goalie prospects, I got in touch with Mitch and ended up having a really good candid chat with him about his goalies. I also wanted to know if the contract changes anything in terms of how Korn handles his day-to-day duties, or how he works with Lindback and the rest of Nashville’s quality goalie prospects.
Below is the transcribed conversation, which was held on the afternoon of November 4. Also, Mitch mentions my ‘Shadowing’ concept in the conversation. He is referring to my personal theory of Shadowing, which you can read about in The Science of Shadowing.
—[ MY PHONE CONVERSATION WITH MITCH KORN ]—
JG: In one sentence, what are your thoughts on Rinne’s new contract?
MK: “It’s really great for our franchise and it now gives us a starting point with the so-called ‘Big Three’. [Rinne, Weber, Suter]
JG: I’m basically just curious if – knowing that Rinne is there for the next seven years – the deal changes your approach at all?
MK: “No, I don’t think it changes anything. Remember, he has been in North America for seven years now, and so we’ve known each other for nine years. We met at conditioning camps, after he was drafted and still continued to play at home in Oulu. We’ve known each other for a long time, so I don’t think it’s going to change anything, really. Our job is for him to be the best he can be, and I don’t think this contract changes that at all.”
JG: Do you think Rinne’s new contract, and him being “the man” in Nashville, will change anything in how he approaches things? I’d have to think it doesn’t really mess with his mindset too much.
MK: “Well, he is already the man in Nashville, and you’ve seen that last year and this year already. So if there’s additional pressure, it’s just him putting it on himself, because he wants to win and he wants to make a significant difference every time he plays. If he feels that he has a greater burden because his salary has gone up, then he may put a little more pressure on himself, but hopefully it doesn’t affect him.”
JG: So is that something you even discuss with him at all? Or do you feel he’s mature enough to handle everything himself?
MK: “We’ve talked about a variety of things the last couple of days. But the kind of guy that he is, and the kind of person he is, the biggest concern he had was Anders Lindback, and what impact the deal might have on Anders mentally. Now it [Rinne’s contract] appears there’s a roadblock for him [Lindback] long-term in Nashville.”
JG: Does that really change anything, though? I mean, you still get to develop Lindback as a prospect, even if he doesn’t play in many games.
MK: “No, it doesn’t. But when this type of thing occurs, you have to remember that nothing happens in a vacuum. So for every action, there is a reaction. And the initial reaction – and I would imagine you’d have to speak with Lindback about this directly – but the initial reaction that one would think he would have, would be there’s a bigger roadblock for him now. So one of the first things that Pekka did, right when the deal was done, was call Lindy.”
JG: Wow, that’s really cool Rinne did that.
MK: “Yeah, he didn’t want Lindy to read it in the paper, or hear it from somebody else, or through the grapevine. Pekka wanted to make sure he talked to him directly, because they have a real good relationship, and that was awesome.”
JG: But it has happened in Nashville before, where you have two good goalies, then the organization makes a decision to move one. Yet you still do your work and then those goalies find opportunities elsewhere, like Mark Dekanich. So it’s not like there’s really that much of a roadblock, right?
MK: “No, not really. But he has only played in one game so far this season, so I think that compounds his feelings at this time. But Lindy is young, is learning, improving and gets to watch Pekka play and practice up close and personal. Your ‘Shadowing’ concept is certainly at work in Nashville.”
JG: Which I’m sure is a natural reaction to have…
MK: “Oh, it’s perfectly natural. And that was one of Pekka and my goals yesterday. Once the deal was done, we went and made sure we got to Lindy and showed him some love, too. Every good team needs two competent, successful goalies. It’s a long season.”
JG: That’s great stuff to hear. I actually caught Lindback in his relief effort, and it looks like he is really improving from where I saw him last year, so despite the deal he has to be feeling good right now.
MK: “He is really improving, there’s no question about it. His improvements in reading plays, quickness, puck control, stick handling; everything is getting easier for him. Having said that, our team has not really gotten off to a great start. We’ve had injuries, which are no excuse. We’re also the youngest team in the league, and it has put a great burden on our back end and our goalie. Because of this, it has been very difficult – not that Lindback isn’t trusted or can’t get the job done, but when you have a Vezina finalist, one of the best goalies in the world at your disposal, it is difficult to keep Pekka out of the lineup. And unfortunately, once again, for every action there tends to be a reaction.”
JG: What I’m most curious about, I guess, is if anything changes for you at all, in terms of how you develop Lindy or Smith or Pickard or Engren or Magnus. Does anything change knowing that Pekka is there until 2018?
MK: “No, and the reason is because everyone needs to want to be, and work to become, the best they can be. If they end up not playing in Nashville, they’re still assets to the Predators. And the better they become, the more possibility then, that we can turn those guys into a player we might need at another position, while still giving them [the goalies] an opportunity to go someplace where they are needed and wanted. But it’s early to be worried about that.
JG: That’s exactly what I hoped to hear. I think the general consensus is that, well, now that Pekka is signed for seven years, it wastes the potential of guys like Lindback and Hellberg, but that’s obviously not the case. So if people hear it from you, they understand the far-reaching value a goalie coach brings to the organization, and not just from a goaltending standpoint, but from the standpoint of developing assets for the Predators.
MK: “Well, you still need to win in Milwaukee, and you need good goaltending there to do that. You develop good players by winning, and at the same time, the byproduct is that, as they become better talents, they become more valuable assets, and if they can’t help us, I’m sure they’ll help someone else. It’s our job to make them the best they can be. If they get traded for someone who can help our team, and they get a chance to grow, that’s great for everyone! And yet with injuries, depth is critical.”