The fanbase has written off Michael Hutchinson for the second time this season.
After yet another game giving up four goals or more in a loss, this one on the front half of a back to back (FIGABABA?), the internet is desperately searching for outside help. Someone, anyone to save us for the rest of the season and looking ahead to philosophies for next season.
And yet the coaching staff and players of the Toronto Maple Leafs are steadfast and committed to their guy. I understand the usual hurrah hurrah the players and coach go through after games where the goalie makes a mess of it, providing a vote of confidence and moving on to the next one. We got that with Garret Sparks a lot last season.
But in their quotes, you can tell when the team has given up on their goalie. Quotes about trying harder and putting up a better effort in the next game are relayed without much detail or vigour. You can tell something is wrong when the quotes are vague.
But see for yourself. The Leafs are very specific in their desire to be better in front of Hutchinson and they are committed to getting him through what they consider a rough patch of games. Everyone seems to be on the same page of what the problems are with this club when Hutchinson starts and it’s not what the unanimous consensus says from outside the organization.
Auston Matthews admits #Leafs still want and need to do better for Michael Hutchinson: "We haven't been all too good for him all year. You have to feel for a guy like that who comes in and gives it his all every game and we just got to be better for him."— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) November 30, 2019
Keefe on Michael Hutchinson's start: "A lot of focus on Hutch, but there's a lot more going on in the game than just that. He played an excellent first period, allowed us to get a 1-0 lead and build on that lead and then I just didn't think we took care of it very well."— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) November 30, 2019
Sheldon Keefe: "I didn't think, really, any of our guys had great nights, to be honest. I thought some of their best people were controlling things out there & I didn't think we had the same level of play throughout our lineup"— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 30, 2019
Morgan Rielly: "Halfway through the game we kind of lost track of what we were doing, what the game plan was & they definitely capitalized on that ... it's more important going forward that we continue the game plan for 60 & not stray from it when you get a lead"— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 30, 2019
Auston Matthews: "Their fifth goal, I mean, I got to make a better play ... a couple bad plays by myself & by our line out there & obviously it cost us some goals against"— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 30, 2019
This was not the rhetoric coming out of the team when Garret Sparks was in net. Granted, when he was in net, he also came out after the game and tried to roast his teammates for making. life. so. unfairrrr.
The Leafs know what they did wrong and they are committed to fixing them for Hutchinson. We had the backup play the FIGABABA for the first time in years, on the road, at home, with a rested team. Sheldon Keefe wanted to give Hutchinson that chance, as did the players. When the players were consulted about who they wanted to be their backup, it was their choice to bring back Hutch. They want to play for him.
Sheldon Keefe said players were consulted before #Leafs recalled Michael Hutchinson: “We talked to a number of players to get their perspective on the situation. They felt that he deserved another opportunity and they were excited to get a chance to play in front of him again”— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) November 29, 2019
And yet, when the Leafs come on the ice, they can’t perform. I think Keefe and Matthews’ quotes about how the Leafs didn’t compete as fiercely as their opponents and, especially in the second period, let themselves get run over. They didn’t deserve to win. Maybe Frederik Andersen saves a couple extra shots and the hang on for a little longer, but with the way they were getting shelled, a win wasn’t going to happen.
I’m concerned about the disconnect between the players saying they want to win for Hutchinson and their actual play on the ice; mentally allowing the game to get away from them, physically losing battles for pucks that result in chances. That shouldn’t be happening if you mean what you say.
Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s the other team wanting it more (the Sabres *really* wanted to win that game for whatever reasons they had). Whatever the Leafs problem is with their lack of effort and execution in games, they’ve made it clear it’s not because of who’s in net — even when the evidence is strongly to the contrary.
That brings me to my final remark on Hutchinson. The Leafs seem to proactively want to help him get through this rough patch and succeed in the team. Hutchinson is a very positive person and has refused these first two months to get the better of him, and it seems like the whole team is behind him in making that a reality.
Michael Hutchinson said he's never been through a stretch like this in his career, yo-yo between AHL and NHL and struggling to adjust and get wins: "You think in 10 years you've gone through everything, and then hockey throws something new at you."— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) November 30, 2019
Michael Hutchinson on players telling Keefe that they felt he deserved another chance:— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 30, 2019
"To know they have my back & wanted me back here, it goes a long way so I'm appreciative of that"
Even before the game, the Leafs invited their Director, Athlete Wellbeing & Performance, Dr. Meg Popovic to work through the mental hurdles this season has put him through.
Michael Hutchinson said that entire #Leafs organization helped him through turmoil of early season, from Freddie Andersen to Dr. Meg Popovic: "It shows how much everyone cares for you as a person. Some organizations just see you as an asset, but here they view you as a person."— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) November 28, 2019
There is investment and trust placed in Michael Hutchinson, and the Leafs are staying with him, even when the world around them is screaming at them to run.
Looking at their last two goalies, the Leafs genuinely liked to play for Curtis McElhinney, and even when they didn’t play their best, they had someone who could come in cold, and be confident in net, and give them wins. Ever since management gave up McElhinney for nothing, the Leafs have had a problem finding a backup they liked and could perform. There was an argument that Garret Sparks was a goalie worth keeping, but it was clear the players didn’t want to play for him.
When it comes to a goalie, starter or backup, the players need trust in ability and trust in the person. With Hutchinson, the Leafs have trust in the person, and in his resume, they see a goalie with the ability to win them games. It’s just going to take some time to turn the ship. It won’t be a fun sight to see, but the Leafs have made their choice.
Katya explains SEGABABAs and the theory behind who plays them here:
Martin Marincin was sent to the Toronto Marlies before the game so that he can play for the Marlies in Rochester. He was on the first pair with Teemu Kivihalme and had one shot in a 3-2 overtime win.
From Maple Leafs Hot Stove, Sheldon Keefe’s career debut could not be going better.
And don’t forget. It’s Hockey Fights Cancer night around the NHL and the Leafs will be doing a special ceremony for awareness before the game today.
Our #HockeyFightsCancer Night takes place Saturday— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 28, 2019
The initiative unites the hockey community to inspire hope and courage for those living with, going through or moving past cancer. @CampTrillium is our charitable partner for the night.
Learn more >> https://t.co/1HcaFtwGcv pic.twitter.com/h8tBhKizS2
I have nothing else but this: