Inside the NHL: Why Freddie Andersen chose the Canes, Alex Bishop one-on-one, and how the Brady Tkachuk deal got done
Inside the NHL is a weekly collection of news, analysis and other insights on the NHL from hockey insider Chris Johnston.
To fully understand why Freddie Andersen is so excited about his fresh start you must first remember how much he loved playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. And how much more challenging last season was from the four that came before it.
Not only was he sidelined for two months by a painful knee issue that didn’t respond well to treatment, but the veteran goaltender was extremely restricted in what he could do away from the rink because of NHL protocols and local lockdowns.
That created what he calls a “negative spiral” in his general well-being.
“It wasn’t very fun. It was a difficult year, that’s for sure,” Andersen said over the weekend. “Both mentally with dealing with the injury and, as you know, the way of life in Canada wasn’t really what it’s supposed to be. The living experience wasn’t even close to what it is usually in Toronto.
“I think Toronto is an amazing city to live in and go out to dinner and stuff like that. Hanging out with your friends and teammates. I think that was really difficult, to not have that part outside the rink, and became a little bit tougher not being able to play and just sit at home and try to rehab and try to figure this injury out.”
Andersen sought out multiple medical opinions for a knee injury that he played through until it became too uncomfortable to properly push and stop on when moving around his crease. While the Amazon “All or Nothing” series framed that as a tense period between him and the organization, the 32-year-old Dane says he didn’t sense any friction with his former bosses.
All he felt was mounting frustration as the weeks bled by without progress. He only started one game after March 19 and watched the playoffs from the bench.
“I think everyone was trying their best and really working hard to come up with a solution and try to get me back playing,” said Andersen. “We were doing a lot of different things that weren’t really working. It was just a difficult injury that wasn’t straightforward. If you have, knock on wood, a broken bone or something you know exactly what you’ve got to do to heal it and that wasn’t really the case.”
It was only after going back to work with high-performance coach Scot Prohaska in California this summer where Andersen started to feel like himself again. That took up even more of his focus than free agency, where he signed a two-year, $9-million (U.S.) contract with the Carolina Hurricanes.
He called that decision a “no-brainer” because of Carolina’s Stanley Cup aspirations and the opportunity they were offering him to get his career back on track.
Prohaska once worked with Dwayne Roloson, whose NHL career extended through age 42, and Andersen has ambitions of trying to do something similar. He points to the examples set by Roberto Luongo, Marc-André Fleury and Carey Price’s playoff performance last spring as other sources of motivation.
“That gives you the belief that it can be done,” he said.
Andersen is clearly in a much better place today.
He was given the start in the Hurricanes’ first two games and came away with victories in both. He’ll likely get a chance to face the Leafs when they visit PNC Arena next Monday.
And while he’s still establishing new routines with teammates and finding the best restaurants in Raleigh, he’s been able to pursue his other major passion by playing a couple of rounds of golf in a region known for its spectacular courses.
“Obviously my last year in Toronto I would have imagined very differently, both with fans in the building and all that stuff,” said Andersen. “I’m just glad to be back and feeling good and having fun again. Having fun on the ice.”
Living the dream