During my first day coaching at Mitch Korn’s goalie camp late last week, the Nashville Predators traded Anders Lindback to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Talk about good timing; I was able to chat with Korn shortly after the deal was announced and quickly pick his brain about Lindback’s future.
Photo Courtesy of Tom Turk: Piratical Photography
Although I do feel like Lindback will be successful in an elevated role for a team that is desperate for better goaltending, I think it’s important to realize how big of a transition this is. He’s switching conferences, he’ll be behind a less-insulated team defense, he’s playing on a brand new team in a brand new city, and he’ll be playing under much higher expectations.
Toss in the fact that he has hardly played behind Pekka Rinne over the last few seasons, and those instantly-elevated expectations also increases the pressure he faces. But have no fear, Lindback has undergone another type of difficult transformation before, and he did so very successfully.
That transformation was going from the larger ice surface to the smaller ice surface, from the Swedish Elite League to the National Hockey League. This smooth transition was the result of what I consider to be a very strong work ethic, a relaxed and confident mindset, and two damn good mentors in Rinne and Korn.
And as Korn points out in our short conversation below, Lindback’s experiences over the past two seasons, regardless of the limited playing time, has primed him for what should be a fairly successful tenure in Tampa Bay.
But be patient; I think it will take him at least one season to truly get comfortable in a Lightning uniform.
That’s not to say he can’t be successful right away, but the odds are much greater that it will take him some time to become familiar with a new team, a new system, and new opponents. The more he plays, the more likely he’ll be to elevate his consistency. For many goalies, this type of situation is not an easy process to go through, but for Lindback, it’s one that he could manage with plenty of success.
No matter how long it ultimately takes Lindback to play at his best and finally reach that “solid starter” status, being traded into a situation where he could be a starter is another notch in Korn’s belt; he’s produced yet another high-caliber NHL goaltender.
And don’t look now, but the time has come for Magnus Hellberg to appear next on that list; he signed an entry-level contract with the Predators a few days after Lindback was traded.
JG: Obviously this is a big opportunity for Anders. What did you see in his overall development from the last time we talked (the Pekka Rinne contract) through the end of the season?
MK: “He really made a lot of progress. He started slow last year but I attribute that to the knee surgery that he had in the off-season. And as the year went on he got stronger and stronger and it really showed at the end of the year in games that we really needed to win to maintain our position. He was outstanding in Anaheim. He was fantastic that night in Colorado where he actually hurt his shoulder. He finished very strong for us. It had to be a very hard year for him. He did not play nearly as much as he would have liked, or should have. You have a world-class goalie like Rinne, so it’s hard for a coaching staff to not use an asset that you have in front of you. So it made it hard for Lindy, but at the same time, it was also a great experience. His time in Nashville was excellent. There’s no burned bridges, and I’m actually excited for him. He has a chance to sow his own oats, and I’m glad it’s in the Eastern Conference, and not in the Western Conference.”
JG: As you know, I advocate the Science of Shadowing. What’s the most valuable thing Anders learned from watching Pekka on a daily basis that you think will help him in Tampa?
MK: “I don’t know if there’s one thing, but I will say that — and even with our minor league goalies — we give them what we consider are their comparable; a goalie that we think that they play like, or with their skill set, need to play like, to be successful. And if Pekka wasn’t on our team, he would have been Anders’ comparable. So to be able to sit next to him every day, watch him every game, talk to him between periods and every day at practice, was huge. I’ve always said this: Goalie coaches are fine, but goalies learn from goalies. Anders learned an absolute ton in every facet of life and hockey, from Pekka Rinne.”
JG: Do you think Anders is ready to step up and play 50 games, and if so, do you think the transition is going to be an obstacle that he will overcome right away, or will it take some time?
MK: “When Lindy came over here, I thought there was going to be a larger learning curve than there was. He really surprised me then with his ability to adapt. I was impressed with how perceptive he was, how smart he was, how calm and laid back he was. He was able to make the adjustment to the NHL and our team rather easily. He went to cities he had never seen before, played against players he had never seen before, tried to do his homework, and adapted very well. He doesn’t have an apprehensive bone in his body, so I think he’s just going to go with the flow, slide right in there, and he’s going to do just fine.”