It has been a while since Henrik Tallinder has played hockey with the Sabres and I'm sure most fans can tell us the highs and lows about his time in Buffalo. However, I wanted to get a firsthand view of Hank's years in NJ. So, I reached out to John Fischer from SB Nation's In Lou We Trust to get the lowdown. Enjoy.
1) How would describe Hank’s stay in NJ?
I would describe it as ultimately disappointing. Tallinder was very good for the Devils from 2010-11 until he suffered from blood clots in his leg the following season. He led the Devils in average ice time per game and was a steady defender. However, he was out for much of the 2011-12 season and struggled to break into the lineup last season in 2013.
He later sprained an ankle which kept him out further too. When he did play last season, he was often playing limited minutes on a third pairing. He did well when he did play but he didn't stand out enough to the coaches so he just got lost in the shuffle. Essentially, he was a steady, reliable defender who just lost his spot and now just got dumped because his contract's expiring.
2) What happened to Hank over the years in terms of being a healthy scratch?
Ultimately, Tallinder was a victim of the numbers game. When Tallinder was hurt, the Devils were able to still put together a group of defenders that were still very stingy at allowing shots on net. Without Tallinder, the Devils still made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Tallinder did play 18-19 minutes in those final three games of the Final so he wasn't shut out then. That happened in 2013 when the Devils carried the same eight defensemen they used in 2011-12. Since Salvador was named captain, Andy Greene was the best defender, and Marek Zidlicky was the only offensive defensemen. This meant there were five guys who have proven themselves capable for three spots. A bad game or result would mean someone gets swapped out. The Devils remained stingy, but the defense was notorious for being truly awful when they did mess up in spots. So there was plenty of defenders who were otherwise good like Mark Fayne and Tallinder who were scratched. Had the Devils have only seven defenders on their roster, then I would think Tallinder would have played more.
3) What was some of the best things Hank brought to the table over the years in NJ? Also, what about the worst?
The best thing about Tallinder is the best thing you can ask for from a defensemen, steady play in your own end. Tallinder often wasn't flashy and there would be games where he'd play 20-22 minutes and you wouldn't notice him much. For a defensive player, that's really good because it means that while he's not doing anything exceptionally good, he isn't doing anything exceptionally bad either. If he did make a mistake, he would get past it and continue making smarter decisions as needed. Generally, the play went in the right direction when he was on the ice and he played in a lot of situations. In a larger sense, Tallinder should be credited for helping Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson along when they broke into the league in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively. Fayne's turned out to be a diamond in a rough of a fifth round draft pick in a lost 2010-11 season. Larsson had a veteran to guide him along on the ice so when he made errors, someone could clean it up.
As far as the worst, well, Tallinder wasn't flashy which probably hurt his chances at getting back into a regular spot when he was finally healthy in 2013. As you may know, he's not really an offensive player and he's not going to do amazing things. As much as that's a plus, if other defenders on the team can be similarly steady for cheaper or are younger, then there's not a lot to compel a coach to put him in over other players.
4) Do you think he can still play in this league or is he done as far as being a top 6 d-man?
I think he really can still be a solid second-pairing guy. I'm not intimately familiar with Buffalo's defense at the moment, but I really do think he can still perform in this league for about 17-19 minutes per game provided he stays healthy and the coaches put him in a good role. He's only turning 35 in January so it's not like he's that far up against Father Time. However, if he gets hurt or he declines a lot faster than I think, then he could be on the outs. I think Buffalo will give him a good opportunity to get his groove back in the NHL.