A quick look back at the schedule the Nashville Predators played in 2011-12 shows that the team played 36 games between January 19th and early April’s end of the regular season. Starting goaltender Pekka Rinne played in 32 of those games.
During the offseason, Predators general manager David Poile traded Anders Lindback, Rinne’s backup for two seasons, to the Tampa Bay Lightning. As free agency approached, Poile expressed an interest in adding a backup that could shoulder a decent amount of work in hopes of reducing the workload on Rinne in 2012-13.
Veteran netminder Chris Mason was signed on the first day of free agency, and now that the league-imposed lockout that caused the cancelation of the first three and a half months of the NHL season is about to be be declared over, Mason’s signing looks even better than it did on July’s first day.
In all likelihood, the 2013 NHL schedule will be released later this week. It is expected to have the league’s 30 teams playing a 48-game schedule beginning January 19th. With so many games being played in such a compressed timeframe, it appears that the position of backup goaltender will be a more prominent role than it has in years past.
“You’ve got to get wins out of your backup goaltender; there is no question about it,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday.
For Nashville, that 48-game schedule will be played against fellow Western Conference teams. Those teams are spread across four time zones, adding considerable travel to the high number of games played in a relatively short period of time.
Since the agreement in principle between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association was announced early Sunday morning, pulling up statistics from the lockout-shortened 1995 season has been a popular activity at 501 Broadway. During his media availability Monday afternoon, Poile referenced the statistics of the Washington Capitals team he managed at the time. Tuesday, Trotz said that he had done some research in that area as well.
“I pulled up from the last time there was a 48-game season; a guy like Marty Brodeur played 41-42 games and there were a number of goalies that played in that 40-game range,” Trotz said. “A number of teams had guys that played in that 30 range, but it is where you are situated. We are in the Western Conference and there is a lot more travel than when you are in New Jersey. Marty Brodeur, back then being a lot younger than he is now, probably could handle 40 games because of the fact that their travel was across the river. I think in the Western Conference you are going to have to get wins out of your backup goaltender. Mase has gotten us some key wins over the years and he is a great veteran to have.”
Brodeur turned 23 during the playoffs of 1995 that culminated with the Devils winning the Stanley Cup. Rinne is 30-years-old.
Mason, now in his third tour of duty with the Predators, is not approaching the season thinking of a set number of games he expects to get the nod from Trotz.
“I learned long ago not to make any predictions in that aspect because it depends on the situation of the season and how things are going,” he said. “I am just going to look forward to starting camp this week and, as always, just try to be ready and prepared best I can for when Trotzy tells me to play.”