Thursday, February 17, 2011

What If? A frightening thought...

I've always had a "What if" mentality in life, especially when it comes to sports. Whether it pertains to past events ("What if the Preds had advanced past the first round last season?") or potential events in the future ("What if the Preds advance past the first round this season?"), it all ends up being summed up with one word: speculation.

I think it's safe to say that most sports talk today revolves around speculation, rumors, and the like. Sports fans are always thinking of different ways, whether they are rational or irrational, to help improve their teams, both for the immediate and distant futures. I myself satisfy my fantasy general manager craving through NHL 11, oftentimes going the irrational route in putting together my fantasy Preds roster. For example, I recently packaged Kevin Klein and a 1st round pick (which obviously doesn't exist anymore) to Chicago for Patrick Sharp, thus solving the need for a goal scorer. Wishful thinking, but hey, video games can serve a purpose.

Bottom line, this post is the start of a new feature that basically poses speculative questions in which I answer myself and in turn, potentially get some feedback or a conversation going. Don't worry, most of the questions will have some logic to it, so don't expect "What if Nashville packaged JP Dumont, Jon Blum, and a 2nd round pick to New Jersey for Zach Parise?". Not happening, except in NHL 11. So here's goes...

  
What if Pekka Rinne suffers a season-ending injury?


Scary thought, huh?

Why do I bring this up?  The question isn't aimed at Pekka, but rather back-up Anders Lindback. Lindback has played in 21 games so far this season, but the majority of those games were while filling in for a twice-injured Rinne. Every since Pekka came back on December 23rd, Lindback has played in four games, starting three of those.That screams inexperience.

Go back to April 10th, 2006. A bombshell was dropped: goaltender Tomas Vokoun had been diagnosed with thrombophlebitis (a blood-clot in the pelvis area) and was out for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. In stepped Chris Mason, who at the time had played in a grand total of 43 games over six seasons as a backup. Mason proceeded to shut out St. Louis the following night, but in the playoffs, the Preds proceeded to fall to San Jose in five games. As good a team as Nashville had that year, Tomas Vokoun carried that team, and the lack of experience between the pipes was the eventual downfall.

Mason was 29 at the time, a significant age difference to Lindback, who is 22. I don't think the age difference hurt Mason, as the opportunity to start in the playoffs gave him a significant boost, but the inexperience was definitely present. I've always wondered if Vokoun had been diagnosed a few weeks earlier, would the experience that Mason would've obtained during the playoff chase had made a difference? Rinne has shown this season that he can get hurt, and while Lindback performed admirably in his absence, it wasn't in the middle of a heated push to the playoffs. Nashville only has three back-to-back sets left this season, which means Lindback will possibly get three more games under his belt, lifting the number of games he's played in to 24. If Pekka did happen to go down, could Lindback step in and carry this team? As much as I like Lindback, I think his inexperience would eventually show, much like Mason and as defensive-minded and offensively-challenged as the Preds are this season, the end result would not bode well for the Preds, and another fantastic regular season (so far) would be in vain. Again.

Once again, this is pure speculation. Nashville has had playoff series where they've missed key players due to injury (Vokoun in 2006, and Patric Hornqvist last season). As absurd as it sounds, the Preds could get by without Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, or Hornqvist, but the inexperience behind Pekka between the pipes has me somewhat worried. I'm hoping that Barry Trotz starts Anders in a few extra games outside of the back-to-backs, and that doesn't mean giving him a few starts if the Preds manage to clinch a playoff berth in late March like they did last season. Pekka avoiding injury altogether would be fantastic, but anything can happen.

Just ask Tomas Vokoun.







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