I’ve never really been a big fan of sequels. Wait, that’s a lie. I consume bad movies almost exclusively. I’ve never been a fan of hockey sequels, and Par Lindholm seems to be the completely unwarranted sequel to Rickard Wallin. That was my initial thought on Lindholm, and training camp hasn’t really changed my mind. The catch here is that Mike Babcock really seems to like Par, so it might be in our best interest to take a closer look at him, and see what we’re getting into with this guy.
The Story on Lindholm
Lindholm has spent the past four seasons in the Swedish Hockey League, which may sound pretty impressive, but let’s remember that he’s not 22, he’s going to be 27 at the start of the season. The undrafted centre has worked his way up from the second tier league, to becoming a regular in the SHL, to now a near point per game player in that league. It’s the late bloomer story, but it’s the late bloomer story that was capped off by an appearance in the Olympics this year, which has the grain of salt of being the Olympics without NHLers, but we consider this means that Lindholm is regarded as one of the top Swedish centers outside of the NHL, that makes things sound more impressive again.
Anyway, the 5’11, 187 lb, left shooting center has chosen to give North American hockey a try, and the Leafs have him slated to be the low minute, low risk, fourth line center that they are hoping will be accompanied by some unexpected upside. The swing for the fences approach of going with someone successful outside the NHL instead of bringing in an established fourth line center who is what he is in the NHL is an admirable gamble by the organization.
Some metrics on Par Lindholm:
34.4%INV (5th in the SHL, #2 behind Pettersen for C’s)
8.16 shots per 60 (10th among top 25 scorers)
3 points per 60 (9th among top 25 scorers)
Overall he’s a solid option for some depth. A very good year in a very good league.
— Will Scouch (@Scouching) April 30, 2018
We’ll that ain’t nothing. Considering that Lindholm appears to be lining up with Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, we’ll want to see a bit of offence out of that line.
None of these numbers lead to much excitement about Lindholm, but probably shouldn’t deter us from believing that he can serve his limited role well. It’s important to remember those 47 points came playing with Leafs legend Joakim Lindstrom, and no matter what league it is, it seems like putting up numbers with Lindstrom is an impressive feat.
The Best Case Scenario for Lindholm?
We’re probably living it. Right from the start of camp Mike Babcock has had Lindholm glued to Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson as the presumed fourth line. Nothing has changed, there hasn’t been any performances from Josh Jooris, Adam Cracknell, Freddie Gauthier, or others that have shifted Babcock away from Lindholm, and the fact that Lindholm has been seeing some penalty kill time as well, makes it seem that there is a plan in place for Lindholm to be in the NHL. I’m sure a lot of people are reflecting on how nice it would have been to see Miro Aaltonen get this seem treatment last season, but let’s move on from that.
There really isn’t a whole lot of places for Lindholm to move up in the roster, and I’m guessing that even if one of the top three centers are injured, or in Kadri’s case, suspended, they’ll rely on William Nylander to fill the void as a center on the top three lines. Lindholm’s best case scenario is that he endears himself so much to Babcock that he finds extra icetime on a team incredibly deep at center. I’m curious to see how he’s utilized on defensive zone starts and protecting a lead. That will ultimately be how we’ll judge him.
Worst Case Scenario?
Mike Babcock starts listening to me and tries Zach Hyman as the fourth line center. I guess that’s not something we really need to worry about happening, but at least for me it would cool if it did. Additionally, the Leafs could consider keeping that fourth center spot vacant and relying on the big 3 C’s to cover the bulk of the time, with players like Marleau, Nylander, Ennis, or Hyman also enjoying some double shifting with time in the middle.
All of this is a stretch and would involve doing something somewhat different, and since we haven’t seen it in training camp, I’m willing to bet it’s not coming anytime soon.
The more realistic worst case scenario is that Josh Jooris gets the 4C position out of fear of losing him on waivers, and Lindholm is given some time to adjust to the North American game in the AHL. Since no one has ever worried about losing Josh Jooris on waivers, we can pretty much ignore this as well.
I’m willing to bet the answer is no, but Lindholm is a mystery box and we can’t discount the fact that he could prove us all wrong.
That being said, I think the Leafs would be very happy with a stable 4C that doesn’t require them giving up a 2nd round pick at the trade deadline for a month of Tomas Plekanec or Brian Boyle.
What’s Likely to Happen?
It seems pretty clear that Lindholm isn’t really on the bubble at all, at least to start the season. He’ll get every chance to succeed in the role, and arguably there isn’t someone who is going to push him out of it.
That said, it’s an 82 game season and if the first 10 games aren’t awe inspiring the Leafs aren’t necessarily going to live an underwhelming performer when they are serious about pushing beyond the first round of the playoffs. If Lindholm can’t live up to the expectations put on an eight minute a night player we’ll see a change.
If I had to guess, Lindholm isn’t going anywhere, but we’ll still see another center brought in at the deadline, but maybe this time it won’t be as costly an addition as it has been in the past with Boyle and Plekanec, and we’ll see Lindholm still get a chance to fight for his roster spot.