Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Revisiting the Leafs backup goaltending options

We’re three starts into Hutchinson’s season and we’re yet to see a .900 save percentage. To be fair save percentage is a bad stat, I don’t know why I used it just there. Let me start over…

We’re three starts into Hutchinson’s season and we’re yet to see him have a quality start. His GSAA is -.91 and the Leafs are 0-2-1 in those games. That’s not particularly good and frankly, if Hutchinson finds his game and gets back to his career average, we’re at best getting a .907 save percentage and 43% quality starts. It’s not chasing a ton of upside.

It pains me to say this because I really wanted to like Hutchinson. He was good enough to make the Leafs cut ties with Sparks. He was serviceable as a backup in his five outings last year, and he’s a new Dad with a cool mask. I really wanted Hutchinson to be the guy. He isn’t. We need to move on.

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Well Andersen hasn’t looked good either?

This is true, but let’s take a look at their numbers side by side.

Hutchinson Andersen Sparks 18-19 Hutchinson 18-19
Record 0-2-1 5-2-1 8-9-1 2-3-0
Sv % 0.890 0.901 0.902 0.914
Quality Start % 0.000 0.500 0.471 0.400
GSAA -0.910 0.910 -6.930 0.110

So if we’re looking at this there isn’t anything to be happy about there. Hutchinson’s small sample from last season doesn’t look like something he’ll catch up to this year, and most significantly Hutchinson is playing belong the level that anyone was willing to accept from Sparks, which we should note was pretty terrible.

What we can takeaway is that Leafs goalies are not having a good time at all this year, and perhaps Hutchinson is playing in front of a worse Leafs team. He has had two of his starts occur on the road, which should equal a tougher time, so to some degree it could be the Leafs still failing Hutchinson.

Season Averages by Starting Goaltender:

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Andersen Starts 53.125 42.125 0.558 3.750
Hutchinson Starts 45.000 53.000 0.459 3.333
5v5 All Situations

So the team in front of Hutchinson is worse. You can make that teams play more conservatively in front of a goaltender they don’t trust. You can cite plenty of work that shows that teams play like ass on the back half of a back to back, and those are the starts that Hutchinson is getting. Those are the only starts he’ll get though.

Looking objectively at Hutchinson’s career, he’s played over 10 games in a season just three times and he’s two seasons removed from when he did that. His most recent role seems to be third string goaltender, which isn’t an ideal career, but it’s where he seems to be at. Suggesting an upgrade doesn’t seem controversial.

Cap Realities

A big reason Hutchinson is the backup is because he plays for league minimum and the Leafs can’t really afford anything other than league minimum. That’s an unfortunate truth and makes it pretty difficult to talk upgrade. That’s not to say that moving salary couldn’t make an upgrade possible, but the current cap realities are that even recalling Joseph Woll isn’t an a likely option because he makes $800k. Kasimir Kaskisuo makes $675k, and could be an option, but despite his hot start to this year in the AHL, last year’s .896 save percentage in 30 games for the Marlies isn’t going to make him a bona fide answer either.

Looking around the league here are the goaltenders who come in at the league minimum

Tristan Jarry PIT 24 2 1 0.941 675000
Jack Campbell LAK 27 4 2 0.897 675000
Michael Hutchinson TOR 29 4 0 0.89 700000
Mackenzie Blackwood NJD 22 5 2 0.886 697500
Oscar Dansk VGK 25 1 0 0.838 675000
Christopher Gibson NYI 26 675000
Kevin Boyle ANA 27 675000
Nick Schneider CGY 21 675000
Kasimir Kaskisuo TOR 25 675000
Richard Bachman VAN 31 675000
Antoine Bibeau COL 25 675000
Michael McNiven MTL 21 682222
Maxime Lagacé BOS 26 700000
Landon Bow DAL 23 700000
Philippe Desrosiers FLA 23 700000
Scott Wedgewood TBL 26 700000
Jean-François Bérubé PHI 27 700000
Andrew Hammond BUF 31 700000
Marcus Högberg OTT 24 700000
Jared Coreau NYI 27 700000
Troy Grosenick NSH 29 700000
Eric Comrie ARI 23 700000
 Zane McIntyre VAN 26 700000
Shane Starrett EDM 24 700000
Ville Husso STL 24 700000
Spencer Martin TBL 24 700000

So two of the 26 options are on the Leafs already and four others are working in the NHL right now. As much as it pains me to close the door on the NHL options, that seems like an uphill battle.

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Outside the NHL, Troy Grosenick has the best AHL save percentage of the guys on this list at .952 over four games. And options like Zane McIntyre, Maxime Lagace, and Ville Husso aren’t terrible either, but the catch isn’t that different than with backup goaltenders. A team has a reliable third string option sitting in the AHL, do they want to shoot themselves in the foot for whatever 4th tier prospect the Leafs would trade for them? Probably not. This is why claiming Oscar Dansk on waivers back in September made a hell of a lot more sense than giving Michael Hutchinson a vote of confidence.

How it probably goes down

The Leafs are going to need to take on another teams expensive backup but send out some salary in the deal. Ideally there is still a fan of Cody Ceci somewhere around the league, and I’ll offer him up as the bait in this scenario, and the Leafs can lust after pending UFA backup goaltenders. Cam Talbot, Brian Elliott and Jimmy Howard are the immediate names I offer up to the trade proposal gods, but if the Leafs are willing to take another year of a goaltender Jake Allen is a far more interesting and attainable option.

What is likely to happen

Settle in for a bumpy ride with Michael Hutchinson. NHL teams aren’t going to be as reactionary bloggers struggling to come up with stories to write about in the first month of the season. They’ll show more patience. Hutchinson will get his start in Montreal on Saturday, and looks like he’ll see at least three starts in November as well. Wishful thinking is that his performance might spark the Leafs to make a move before the Holiday roster freeze, but when was the last time anyone made a move in advance of the roster freeze? No, the Leafs take their time. They build up data and make decisions once they are comfortable they have enough data to make a decision off of. Unfortunately that data that keeps building shows that Hutchinson is not a good backup goalie.

Data harmed in this post is from Puckpedia, Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick