For the record, Fredrik Andersen has indeed stepped on a piece of Lego in bare feet. “Not fun,” he reports.
It seems Andersen is never far from the plastic interlocking bricks that have kept children occupied for years. He grew up about an hour from the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark, where the toy was invented and plays and lives in a place that is about an hour north of the California Legoland resort. Andersen still has his Lego from when he was a child stored away in the attic at his parents’ home and said the family where he stayed his first couple of years in Anaheim had kids who had Lego around all the time.
And following up on his mask design from last season that featured a goalie building a Lego wall, Andersen will brandish a mask this season that will feature the Batman character from The Lego Movie, adorned with the old-school Anaheim Ducks logo and going by the name Duckman. “Last year it blew up a little bit and it got pretty popular pretty quickly,” Andersen said. “So we (he and mask designer David Gunnarson) said, ‘Why not run with it and keep the theme going?’ and it’s cool how it turned out.”
So it’s only fitting that he plays for a team that is a lot like Lego. All the pieces are there and they seem to fit together most of the time, but it’s a matter of finding the right combination of pieces to build the perfect structure. Sometimes you get almost finished and decide to pull it apart a little and make some additions. Whether or not the Ducks have the winning combination this year remains to be seen, but we at THN have declared the Ducks our pick for the Stanley Cup. (Just so you know, for 2014-15 we picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the final over the Tampa Bay Lightning.)
“That’s where we’ve picked ourselves,” said Andersen, who was part of the NHL pre-season media tour in Toronto on Tuesday. “We expect it ourselves.”
That the Ducks will start with one too many pieces at the foundation of their structure could either be a problematic distraction or a strength. Nobody is sure what it will be at this point. Andersen was terrific through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but looked worn down by the time the Ducks faced the Blackhawks and like his teammates, faltered as the series went on. But he was still very, very good and at 25, looks to be headed in the right direction.
Which is why so many people scratched their heads when the Ducks went out and got Anton Khudobin from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman James Wisniewski. It was probably more about shedding Wisniewski’s deal than it was acquiring another NHL-ready goalie, but it sure does its part to create uncertainty, an uncertainty that was punctuated at the draft when GM Bob Murray emphatically said the Ducks do not intend to trade John Gibson and followed that with, “Put that (expletive) out there.”
Three-headed goaltending monsters don’t always work, but the good thing is that Gibson can still go to the minors without clearing waivers and will be playing this season in San Diego, a short 100-minute drive from Anaheim after the Ducks moved their affiliate from Norfolk. And having Khudobin will ensure the Ducks will be able to give Andersen enough rest to be fresh for a long playoff run. But it wasn’t as though he played too much last season. He had 54 starts and barely made it into the top 20 in minutes played. But Khudobin does give the Ducks a veteran presence who can give them 35 starts or more. And it certainly insulates them against an injury problem.
Some goaltenders respond to competition in the crease favorably, while others prefer to know they’re the ones who will be starting every night. Andersen doesn’t profess to know what kind of statement the Ducks were making by adding another NHL goalie to the two they have, but it won’t change the way he approaches the season or plays it.
“I’m not sure exactly what the thought process was,” Andersen said. “But it's not going to change anything about the way I play. I’ve always had someone to compete with and I think it can bring out the best in me.”