InGoal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley joined Dan Riccio on Sportsnet Tonight to discuss the Maple Leafs’ acquisition of Frederik Andersen. While Woodley is a personal friend of Andersen’s (and explicitly acknowledges his affinity for him), there is a tonne of insight here on the Leafs’ new number-one goaltender in this interview. Enjoy.
You’ve followed Frederik Andersen quite a bit. What made him such a hot commodity in this offseason? We know that the Leafs weren’t the only team in on him.
Kevin Woodley: I do know that Freddie Andersen was on the market around January/February. I do know the Calgary Flames were very interested at the time. They just didn’t like the price. The price was too high for them. Obviously, I think the expansion draft changes things. Clearly Anaheim had a decision to make with John Gibson and Freddie Andersen. Time will tell if they made the right one. I get to say this because I was on record before the playoffs started: I think they made the wrong choice to start the playoffs with John Gibson. I would argue that they may still have been playing long after the first round if they started Freddie Andersen. I do actually believe, as much as they are enamoured with the raw skill and the upside that presents with John Gibson, I don’t think there is that big of a falloff in terms of the skill of Freddie Andersen. I like his size and his technical game, which is where consistency comes from and is much further along than John Gibson is. To be honest with you – and I said this before this trade was made, so it’s not hindsight – I would’ve been looking to acquire, if I was a team looking to acquire goaltending, Frederik Andersen before John Gibson every time at this point in their careers.
I guess you do believe that he’s certainly a five-million dollar goalie in this league?
Woodley: Oh, the debate on what guys are worth in an era where we see young guys having success on entry-level contracts… The one thing I’ll say is that everybody is enamoured right now with Matt Murray, but he is going to get paid as soon as that deal is up. Cheap goaltending is good, but as soon as it comes out of an entry-level deal, they’re getting paid. It’s tough for me to evaluate the cost. I think he is a number-one goaltender in the NHL. I think that, with the structure you get behind a Mike Babcock team, he can excel there.
What I like most about Freddie Andersen is his desire to get better. I know that kind of sounds like an intangible almost. How do you measure that? To me, I measure that based on what I’ve seen him do over the past couple of years with his offseason to make sure he is getting better every time. We talk about the skills about Freddie Andersen. What else does he having going? He’s got the size. He’s a big body. That technical ability allows him to put that body in position more often than not.
But what I really like about Freddie are the things he does. The Anaheim Angels baseball team — going and meeting with their hitting coach and learning what they do from a vision science perspective to get their hitters to be able to read the seams and read the spin on pitches, and seeing how he can apply that to his own game in order to read the puck and be able to track the puck better. That’s one example.
He was clearly heavy when he came over to the NHL for the first time. He played heavy in his first year in the NHL. He recognized that he couldn’t be a number one and play regularly at that weight. What did he do? He went to work in the offseason, he found a trainer in Los Angeles, he canceled his trip home to Denmark, and he dropped almost 30 pounds and put on a lot of muscle. Again, another example of a guy who is not satisfied with the status quo.
Freddie Andersen is a guy who looks for advantages. Another example – last summer, his tracking was what let him down in the playoffs. It was tangible. You could see where he stopped tracking the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a clear deficiency in his game. There was a lot of talk about this. There was a lot of talk about the Leafs bringing in Lyle Mast. In terms of that tracking, Freddie Andersen is a guy who recognized that deficiency last summer. I don’t know if you remember he was one of the goaltenders who went to the NHL kick-off media session in Toronto where they do photography and interviews and things like that. Rather than fly from Toronto to Anaheim after that, he flew to Halifax because that is where the coach who teaches it was working that week. He spent an entire week on the ice trying to get better with his tracking, trying to understand this philosophy called head trajectory. Again, just one more example that Freddie Andersen is not someone who is going to be satisfied with here he is now.
You’re not just getting what you have in Andersen now. You’re getting a goaltender who is motivated to constantly evolve, to constantly improve, and he’s always looking for details in his game where he can get better. I compare it to Cam Ward. I hate to say it — he signed a contract recently this week — but there’s a guy who hasn’t done the work in the past few years. Ever since he won a Cup, he got content with where he was at and thought he could survive on the skill and never went to work on the technical game. It’s polar opposite with Andersen. He’s a kid who is always looking to get better. Again, it’s intangible/immeasurable, so how much can he improve through these efforts? I guess we’ll find out, but I sure like a guy that is trying as opposed to a guy who just thinks he’s good enough right now.
We’ve seen goalies struggle when they are asked to be that guy who plays more than 65 games a year. There’s only a select few that do it in the NHL these days, but do you see Freddie as that kind of guy?
Woodley: I think there’s always an evolution to get to that. You don’t just step up to be a 65-game number one. There’s a process. Part of that process is learning how to manage your game. When you play that often, you lose your time with the goaltending coach in between starts. You start to manage your rest, your fitness levels and fatigue levels, rather than managing your game. That’s part of the process. That’s a very real thing. I’ve talked to Cory Schneider about it when he went through it in Vancouver and I’ve talked to other goalies about it. You lose that ability to go on the ice 20 or 30 minutes early with your goalie coach, and to make sure the details of your game stay sharp, because you’re playing non-stop for a month and you’re just trying to make sure you have the right energy level. Managing your own game in those circumstances – there’s a learning curve to that. There may yet be a learning curve for Freddie Andersen to get to that point. But I think he is a guy who learns quickly. Again, he came over heavy in his first year, and realized quickly he couldn’t play heavy and couldn’t play that many games – couldn’t be a number one or an everyday starter – at that weight. He quickly set out to rectify that situation. I’m a big fan of Steve Briere, the goaltending coach who comes from the Mitch Korn school, is close to Mitch Korn and frankly probably got the job because of Mitch Korn. I think this is going to be a good tandem because he’s a good coach both in terms of the mental side of the game and how he approaches that and the technical side of the game. He’s got an eager pupil in Freddie Andersen. Hey, are there going to be hiccups? Possibly. Do you have two guys who are going to be able to work through them there in Toronto? Absolutely.
We know that Leafs management has put more of an emphasis on character and intangible type of things in their locker room as they rebuild the culture of this team. What kind of guy is Freddie Andersen?
Woodley: Quiet but thoughtful, and insightful. Maybe that’s why I am such a fan of Freddie Andersen. Every time I get to talk to him, I learn things. But more than that, he asks me things. You can get caught in a bubble when you’re in an organization. You have one voice in that goalie coach. You don’t get to see things from the outside. That’s one of the things I get to do, is talk to goalies around the league and different goalie coaches and hear different philosophies and different ideas; different ways of stopping the puck. There is no one way. There are few absolutes in this position. Freddie is a guy who is intrigued by the different opportunities. What’s the latest? What’s the newest thing? Again, a guy who wants to be really good. A guy who works on his craft and takes it seriously. When you talk about character, is he a real vocal guy? No. You probably heard that. I heard the clip coming in on the conference call. He’s a pretty quiet, soft-spoken guy. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t passionate about his craft and his position, and about his desire to be one of the best. You would think that everyone has that in the NHL; that that’s sort of just a given to get to that level. But I can tell you, from conversations with guys around the league, that it’s not. There are a lot of guys who can get content. There are a lot of guys who are not open to change and not open to new ideas. They are very stuck in their ways. Freddie Andersen is not that. As you can tell, I am pretty big on Freddie. Part of that is getting to know him. You build relationships with goaltenders. It’s hard not to get to like Freddie Andersen once you get to know him. But I really do believe in how he approaches the position and the way he keeps an open mind to everything. Again, that passion to get better and the fact that he’s always looking for new avenues that will help him stop more pucks.
He certainly seems to have a competitive streak. I’ve been reading through a bunch of articles written about him. He didn’t really like sharing the net with John Gibson all that much.
Woodley: Understandably, and yet he never let it become an issue in the Ducks locker room, right? Credit to him there. Again, we didn’t hear much from him when John Gibson started in the playoffs. As I said, I thought that was the wrong call. He took a shot in practice, and then wasn’t really well diagnosed; they tried to get him to play a couple nights later in Edmonton and he wasn’t right, so he missed some time. He was kind of the victim of circumstances a little bit. He had not missed that time and needed a little time to get back, maybe he is the guy for the Ducks. I believe firmly – and I get to say this because I said it before the playoffs started – Freddie should’ve been the number one there. Not that Gibson was bad, but they needed better than that. I just think there were just some situations there where there were some saves that I see Freddie Andersen making.