The mystery surrounding what on Earth was going on with Marek Mazanec has now been answered. Before that ever happened though the organization already made good on its promise to bring in three goaltenders: Anders Lindbäck, Matt O’Connor, and Jake Paterson. Mazanec would have offered a nice, stable, and reliable option for the Milwaukee Admirals. Mazanec also would have also been a decent enough fit for the third choice option in net for the Nashville Predators. It was evident early he wouldn’t be back. It was evident as the signings came around that the three don’t match Mazanec’s current comfort blanket feeling. Should Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros suffer injury of any length during the 2017-18 season who really is that next man up?
The safe assumption for most would be that the familiar name, Lindbäck, would work that third choice goaltending option this season. He has 130 career games of NHL experience under his belt. And, for fans of the organization, the 29-year old Swede also packs 38 games of experience with the Predators and also played 6 games in the AHL with the Admirals. Compared to O’Connor and Paterson? That’s a giant leap up in experience. Heck, Paterson -who was stuck in the Detroit Red Wings goaltending log jam- has only even played 2 games in the AHL. Lindbäck you could then assume to be the favorite out of the three. But that is based on feelings had from nearly six-seasons ago when he was last part of the Predators system. Time hasn’t been kind for Lindbäck. And it is what happened in 2016-17 that should be the biggest red flag of all. He started the season on a professional try-out contract basis with the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, and was released after 4 appearances. After that he had no other North American pro playing destinations. He went back home to Sweden and played for Rögle BK. He did rather well there, making 23 appearances while having a 2.63 goals against average and 0.916 save percentage, but it is the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Jonas Gunnarsson, who the Predators decided not to bring back this season, had comparable numbers with a lot more starts in his last season with the Malmö Redhawks before making the leap for AHL hockey last year.
Ultimately, Lindbäck is the biggest wild card out of the three goaltenders competing for work below Nashville’s banner. He could be who he once was and be NHL level good. But, it has been awhile since he has displayed that high level of ability and -more so- consistency. He could put it all together one night and leave you scratching your head the next. That is who he has become over recent years. That is why he started 2016-17 without a contractual guarantee in North America. And that is why he ultimately needed to go back to Sweden to keep playing professionally.
The alternatives, O’Connor and Paterson, are two goaltenders with a lot in common. Both have badly needed to escape the organization that they were in. Both are getting to start fresh in a brand new organization.
O’Connor was highly thought of as an undrafted goaltender coming out of the great Boston University program. He signed with the Ottawa Senators. He was mainly forced to play for their AHL affiliate the Binghamton Senators -and- they are awful. In his first two professional playing seasons in Binghamton that team has gone 59-82-8-3 (0.424 points percentage) while having a -86 goal differential (394 GF, 480 GA) and a whopping 15.2 penalty minutes per game average. That team was bad and he was in net for it all.
Meanwhile, Paterson never even received the chance to perform in the AHL. The 23-year old was drafted by the Red Wings in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft and started his professional playing career with the 2015-16 season. He played a pair of road games that debut season, lost both, but showed well against the Charlotte Checkers and San Antonio Rampage with a 0.928 save percentage from the contests. His single biggest problem was an inability to promote him or to give him an AHL chance. The Red Wings were set with Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrázek. The Griffins had Jared Coreau but then went on to feature names such as Tom McCollum, Eddie Pasquale, Jeff Lerg, Pat Nagle, and Cal Heeter. It forced Paterson into an ECHL career with the Toledo Walleye that spanned 81 games where he worked a 53-22-2-2 record with a 2.24 goals against average, 0.920 save percentage, and 9 shutouts. He didn’t get his chance with the Griffins. He will have his chance to show the Griffins wrong as a member of the Admirals battling for the Central Division crown. And what a story it would be for a potential third opening round playoff match-up between the Griffins and Admirals with Paterson being a major difference in the Admirals overcoming that hurdle.
To me, Paterson is the one with the trajectory in the best possible place out of the three goaltenders to start the 2017-18 season. What is amusing though is he is the -one- goaltender under an AHL contract rather than a two-way contract through the Predators. I suppose, should he start and stay hot, that could change – especially if the other choices aren’t on the same wave length as him. Lindbäck is the wild card though. He is the “veteran” goaltending option for the Admirals and it would feel, based on the alternatives, that the Predators would very much hope he regains what he had to be that third choice option should it be needed. All three could play a role in Milwaukee this season. One will end up playing for the Norfolk Admirals in the ECHL. The biggest storyline heading into this season’s Training Camp will be figuring out who goes where in net for the Admirals.
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