BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Craig Anderson’s career hasn’t always been easy. The goaltender’s been in the NHL, sent down to the minors, cleared waivers three times in two weeks, and has endured the uncertainty of free agency throughout his nearly 20-year tenure. And it’s through all those challenges that he may be a huge help to the Buffalo Sabres.
Those lessons the 40-year-old goaltender learned throughout his career have been pivotal not only in the latter part of his playing days, but also going into what could be his final season in the NHL.
“I went through in my younger playing days of being the back up, not playing a whole lot, then when you get your opportunity you fail and then you get sent down,” Anderson said. “I’ve kind of learned from those experiences and that’s the experience that I was able to kind of go off of and allow myself to play well when called upon.”
Now he’s trying to pass some of that wisdom along to the younger players. With such a young squad in Buffalo, a guy like Anderson could be helpful for teammates like fellow goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
There’s lots of stepping stones in my career that I don’t want to see these other guys make the same mistake,” Anderson said. “My main lesson in my career was never be satisfied and it took me a while to figure that out and even down to summer workouts, doing enough. . Are you doing enough? Or are you doing more than enough to make sure you are ready to go?”
That mindset of “doing more than enough” is a big key lesson he hopes the younger guys learn when he spends time with them this season.
“If you do the bare minimum that’s what you’ll get and unfortunately a lot of guys play their entire careers just doing the bare minimum,” Anderson said. “Some guys can get away with it, other guys can wind up being career minor leaguers because of it. There’s a great opportunity to come in and grab hold of a job here and if I can instill that mentality of never be satisfied, hopefully they have long careers.”
Anderson learned a lot about having the right mindset even as recently as last season. He was the number three goaltender for the Washington Capitals and spent most of his season on the taxi squad. While it was challenging to deal with, he worked on his mindset to stay ready when called upon.
“When you are expected or when your mindset is to play every night and you’re not, you get frustrated and then that kind of carries over into your play and your attitude around everybody so it was more of a mindset change last year of ‘hey what can I do to help the guys around me?'” Anderson said.
He still has plans to compete at a high level this season and hopes to be a contributor on the ice, not just a mentor.
“My job now is to prove to Buffalo and everyone else the reason why they offer the contract and make sure that I’m ready to go to go in there and do the job that they are asking me to do,” Anderson said. “Again it comes down to mindset of setting goals, what’s the goal here? The goal is to go in and earn your ice time. My first year pro, I had a coach told me that everything is earned in this game. He wasn’t wrong. It took me a few years to kind of figure that out but now once you kind of understand that you do everything you possibly can to be ready and you don’t take anything for granted.”