The Roundtable got a chance to catch up with Nashville’s goalie coach Mitch Korn last week. The 22-year NHL coaching vet attended a few Ads games over the last week and a half, and imparted some of his vast knowledge to goaltenders Jeremy Smith and Magnus Hellberg.
For those of you who don’t know, Korn is one of the best in the biz, being named to “The Hockey News” list of “Top 10 Geniuses in Hockey” in 2010. He’s in his 15th year with the Preds, and over the course of his career has helped develop such household names as Pekka Rinne and Dominik Hasek, or as Preds head coach Barry Trotz calls them, “The Children of the Korn.”
He still considers Hasek to be the most talented player he’s ever worked with, with all due respect to Rinne.
“Four Vezina trophies, two Hart trophies when we were together. He had six total Vezinas. Not to throw Pekka under the bus, but it’s still Hasek just because of the results.”
He still recalls one of his favorite stories involving the Czech goalie: the story of the day he realized Hasek had a big time future ahead of him.
“Dominik Hasek had a competitive battle going on with a guy named Don Audette. It was Hasek’s first year with us in Buffalo and my second year in the NHL. Audette loved to score goals and it didn’t matter if it was the first shot of practice or the last. Dom was the same way, rather on his end he had to keep it out. They had this little war that started almost from day one.”
“I remember one day Dom was in net and Audette was in the right corner getting ready for this drill where they were breaking out and curling out and coming down 3-on-2 on the goalie. I watch Audette grab a puck while waiting in line in the corner and Hasek’s at the top of the blue paint, and Audette shoots the puck at the empty net behind Hasek. While Hasek’s waiting on the 3-on-2 he sees the puck, he turns slightly, he knocks it out of the air with a baseball bat-like swing, and then stops the 3-on-2 coming at him.”
“It was at that moment that I knew he was special.”
Moving forward to the present, Korn compared one current Admirals goalie to Pekka.
“I think from a size standpoint you can see Magnus Hellberg a little bit. Magnus isn’t as (for lack of a better term) dynamic as Pekka. He’s more of a blocker. He’s really efficient in his movement. Pekka’s a little busier than Magnus when he plays.”
“We want him to be able to play sometimes what we call ‘outside the box.’ There are times that you have to scramble and you’re going to have to do things that are less robotic and more desperate. Instead of blocking pucks we want him catching more pucks, and he’s doing that better. We’re taking years of training from him and trying to change all that. And that’s not easy.”
“Anybody who goes to an unfamiliar environment has to adapt. Pekka Rinne has gone over to the KHL and hasn’t done nearly as well he has in America. There’s guys at the top of the KHL who wouldn’t be able to compete in the NHL. Pekka knows he’s coming back, but Hellberg still needs to adjust to factors like rink size over here.”
Korn also offered his thoughts on Jeremy Smith’s start to the season.
“They both need to play differently to be effective. Smitty needs to be more aggressive because he’s smaller. Smitty relies more on skating and movement and getting into position whereas Magnus doesn’t move very much because of his size.”
“Jeremy’s made a lot of progress from day one. He came in here when our goaltending was struggling and seized the job. He won it over Engren and Pickard so you gotta give him high marks. I think he’s struggled at times this season, but I think he’s been a little snake bit. He’s played well enough some nights to win and hasn’t won. There are ebbs and flows in this game and he’s won a lot of games over the last few years.”
Though fondly known as a spirited talker, Korn was mute on the subject of the NHL lockout.
“I’m not allowed to have thoughts on it. We all just want it to be over. We want to get going, but as far as opinions go, I don’t have enough information to have any.”
What do you think of Korn’s evaluations?
Do you agree with his critique of Hellberg?
Just for kicks, do you think Rinne will ever take the place of “The Dominator” on his list?