It’s no secret; Nashville Predators goaltenders Pekka Rinne
(6 foot 5) and Anders Lindback
(6 foot 6) make up the tallest goalie tandem in NHL history.
But here’s something not as well known: Nashville is one of only three NHL teams whose No. 1 and No. 2 goaltenders are playing for the clubs that drafted them. The others are Los Angeles and Buffalo. Take it one step further: all five of Nashville’s goaltenders playing in North America were drafted by the Predators. No other NHL team can make that claim about their goalies.
That build-through-the-system approach proved highly successful in 2010-11 when Rinne was a Vezina Trophy finalist and Lindback established himself as a reliable backup.
“Our scouting analysis is always, ‘We want guys that have character and a sense for the game,’ ” Nashville Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton said. “It’s the same thing with a goaltender. You look at Pekka, who is so elite with his sense of everything that is happening around the ice. And Lindy does the same thing right now. We’re working with the other three to get to that point. We’re seen it in them before at lower levels.”
For the players, being in one organization from the start is a massive advantage, partly because they are able to work with the same goaltending coaches. Mitch Korn is the Predators goalie coach, and Ben Vanderklok serves as Korn’s assistant, working with goaltenders in Milwaukee (AHL) and Cincinnati (ECHL).
|Tale of the Tape |
|Pekka Rinne, 28, 2004 NHL Entry Draft (8th round, Nashville), 6-foot-5 |
Anders Lindback, 23, 2008 NHL Entry Draft (7th round, Nashville), 6-foot-6
Jeremy Smith, 22, 2007 NHL Entry Draft (2nd round, Nashville), 6-foot
Chet Pickard, 21, 2008 NHL Entry Draft (1st round, Nashville), 6-foot-2
Atte Engren, 23, 2007 NHL Entry Draft (7th round, Nashville), 6-foot-1
“Being in the same organization for my first six years, it’s a luxury,” Rinne, 28, said. “When I came over, I was treated so well. I felt right at home. I was nervous coming over and everything was new. It took a while to adjust, but they’ve been so good to me. Being a goalie, you have to feel comfortable and have that support behind you, not only from teammates, but from the coaches and management, too. I learned so much from my first three years in Milwaukee. Looking back now, that was a key time for me.”
Lindback, 23, obviously has spent less time in the organization, but being drafted by Nashville and being able to learn the system from the start has paid off.
“It helps coming over here for the development camps and recognizing all the staff members,” Lindback said. “You get to start learning everything early on. It doesn’t take one day to learn the system. It takes a while, and being in one organization from the start helps you, especially with the small things. Mitch and I began working on small details for a couple of years and they’re in my game now.”
Fenton admits there is some luck involved, but in order for a prospect to make the progressions Rinne and Lindback have made, the scouts must do their due diligence.
“Our scouts have done a great job to find the type of goalies that we want, character guys, size guys, athletic guys,” Fenton said. “And then we bring them into our system and both Mitch and Ben have done a really good job of taking their positives and enhancing them even more. That’s probably the thing that works the best. We all mesh together and communicate well. What I like is our goaltending coaches don’t try to change our guys. They work with them for the style that they have.”
One of the advantages Korn sees is the tunnel-like approach the goaltenders are allowed to have. Instead of having to learn new faces, tendencies and personalities, they can focus on improving.
“Everybody in any profession is resistant to change,” Korn said. “One of the good things we’ve had here is there hasn’t been a great deal of change. Those (goalies) report to a lot of different people. Obviously I’m in the loop, but Barry Trotz is the guy they really report to, and David Poile is someone who deals with them and their agents. Because of that consistency, everyone knows what to expect. As a result, they’re very comfortable.”