Photo Credit: Eric Hartline/ USA TODAY

Hutchinson Acquisition Gives Marlies Missing Puzzle Piece

Adding goaltender Michael Hutchinson to the fold might just go down as the turning point of the Toronto Marlies 2018-2019 season.

Theres no point in sugarcoating it; plain and simple, the Marlies goaltending has been the thing holding them back from reaching their full potential.

On Saturday afternoon, hours before the team announced the addition of Hutchinson in exchange for a fifth round pick, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced the emergency recall of Kasimir Kaskisuo, a goalie who has a .866 SV% in the AHL.

The organization’s goalie bullpen has looked pretty bleak this year and it’s why the organizations AHL affiliate is hanging on to a playoff sport by a thread.

Eamon McAdam (15 GP) 2.99 GAA .891 SV%
Kasimir Kaskisuo (11 GP) 4.12 GAA .866 SV%
*Jeff Glass (10 GP) 4.31 GAA .849 SV%

*No longer on active roster

Thus far this season, the Marlies have allowed 119 goals against, tying them for the fourth most in the entire AHL.

It’s been difficult for the Marlies to sustain much momentum in games with such a shaky goaltending situation. Take this into account; The Marlies have been outscored 40-34 in the first period and they’ve got a 1-9-2-1 record in games where they’re trailing after the first 20 minutes. Plus, In just about half of their games the team has allowed at least four goals against. The Marlies 3-10-1-2 in games where they allow that many goals.

And if you look up and down the Marlies roster, it’s clear that with better goaltending, this group could be doing much more damage.

While the teams offence has been on somewhat of a dry spell lately (averaging 2.40 GF/pg over their last 10GP, down from 3.95 GF/pg in their previous 22 games), the team is equipped with a deep set of weapons that includes the likes of Sam Gagner, Chris Mueller, Jeremy Bracco and Carl Grundstrom. There’s reason to believe they’ll bring the teams offence back up to elite status.

And while the Marlies blue-line is nowhere the level it was last season, there’s still some really intriguing pieces–highlighted by Calle Rosen, Frank Corrado Timothy LIljegren and Rasmus Sandin.

There’s just too much talent on this Marlies roster to throw in the towel this season and organization knows that. They can’t afford to have prospects stew in the minors and not play meaningful games, due to a glaring deficiency on the roster, like the goaltending.  The Maple Leafs rely on the development of their prospects to round out their star-studded roster for years to come.

But the Marlies would never have been able to run with the top-dogs this season and give their prospects a chance to play in meaningful games in the late stages of spring. Their recent thumping at the hands of top-tier teams such as Syracuse (8-1) and Rochester (5-1) was evidence that the degree of separation between the Marlies and the teams at the top was largely based on goaltending.

Something needed to change and thats why Michael Hutchinson was brought in.

So, what’s the scoop on the new guy?

Well first off, you could make a strong case that last season Hutchinson, who was with the Manitoba Moose, was the third best goalie in the league behind Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard.

Have a look at his stat-line, which is all-the-more impressing when you factor in that the fact that the Moose’s defence last year sacrificed the eighth most shots out of any team in the league.

Michael Hutchinson’s 2017-2018 season

17-5-4 2.08 GAA (3rd) .935 SV% (2nd)

Throughout his 2017-2018 campaign, where he earned an appearance at the AHL all-star game, Hutchinson even saw some NHL action with the Winnipeg Jets, earning two wins out of the three games he saw, while maintaining a respectable .907 SV% during his brief stint in the big leagues.

Before last season though, Hutchinson was an NHL regular with the Jets for three seasons (2014-2017). ‘

After leading the organizations AHL affiliate to a Calder Cup run in 2014, Hutchinson made 38 appearances for the team in the 2014-2015 season. While his appearances, and ultimately his play, declined as the years went on, Hutchinson averaged approximately 32 NHL games through that span.

You may be asking, how Hutchinson ended up in the AHL and why he’s still there now, and the answer for that may just be poor luck.

Look, Hutchinson’s play is the reason the team demoted him (and signed Steve Mason during the 2017 offseason), but after he paid his dues at the AHL level, one would think he’d earn another look. Hutchinson was shipped out to Florida last season, a team who was battling injuries to their goaltenders Roberto Luongo and James Reimer.

But now, Hutchinson, who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, will get a chance to prove that he’s capable of playing at the next level with the AHL team under the most spotlight.

The acquisition of Hutchinson, a AAAA goalie on the outside-looking in at the NHL level, was a worthwhile gamble for the organization. It provides insurance in case of an injury and a definite upgrade to their AHL teams goalie situation.

Once again, the organization proved that it’ll go to great-lengths to give their prospects down in the farm every chance to win.

We saw it over the last few weeks in acquisitions such as Michael Carcone, Morgan Klimchuk and Steve Olesky but now with the team sacrificing a fifth round draft pick to, essentially, bolster their AHL affiliate–it’s even more apparent how dedicated the team is to giving the prospects best chance to win, which the club thinks is paramount to development.

Now, the Marlies are loaded from top to bottom. Theirs still an uphill battle, for them to become a top-team in the league.

But in adding Hutchinson to the fold, the Marlies are on the right track.

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