Nashville Predators backup goaltender Carter Hutton has been the most scrutinized player on the team since being signed as a free agent prior to the 2013-14 season.
Hutton once again became the topic of discussion Sunday night in a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in the second game of a back-to-back. It was just Hutton’s second start of the season and moved to 1-1-0 with a 3.44 goals-against average and a .899 save-percentage. Neither four goals could possibly be blamed on Hutton, but nevertheless, he was scrutinized.
Carter Hutton you are soooo bad. You let in 3 goals not even 12 minutes into the game…………
— Trevor Johnson (@_trevjohnson) November 2, 2015
Every time Anaheim shoots on Carter Hutton, I hold my breath.
— Jared Stillman (@JaredStillman) November 2, 2015
Hutton Is Not, Nor Will Ever Be Rinne
Though Hutton may not play more than 15-20 games this season, he has arguably one of the most difficult backup goalie jobs in the league — filling Pekka Rinne’s shoes. Rinne is the reason for much of Nashville’s success. At times, the Predators can get away with sloppy play knowing the MVP-caliber keeper can bail them out. Hutton, on the other hand, needs a well-playing defense to support him. The problem Hutton faces is the majority of his starts come on the tail end of a back-to-back when players are already tired from the night before.
If Not Hutton, Then Who?
Nashville has two other options than Hutton — trade for a better backup or look inside the organization and re-call either Marek Mazanec or Juuse Saros from the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals. Finding a better goalie outside of the organization will not exactly equal better results. When the Predators acquired Devan Dubnyk from the Edmonton Oilers midway through the 2013-14 season due to Rinne’s hip injury, Dubnyk was a horrendous 0-1-1 with a 4.35 GAA and a .850 SV%. Hutton can arguably do better at a cheaper cost than another goalie. He only has a $725,000 cap hit on the team’s payroll. As for Mazanec and Saros, both have promising futures in the NHL, but neither are ready for the next level yet. Mazanec, 24, has had a rough start to begin the season in Milwaukee, posting a 1-2-1 record, a 3.41 GAA and a .886 SV%. Saros, 20, is inexperienced and playing in just his first season in North America. Given the circumstances, Hutton is the best option.
Hutton Is A Good Goalie
— Colin Fitts (@FittsTHW) January 12, 2015
Hutton is one of the best skaters in the league. He has incredibly quick feet that make up for being 6-foot-1 and not 6-foot-5 like his counterpart Rinne. Hutton is so good with his feet he often relies on it too much by being overly technical in net. However, Hutton’s style is what every youth goaltender should aspire to play like. In comparison, Rinne is not technical whatsoever and will flail his large body in any means necessary to prevent the puck from going in.
Statistically, Hutton has been sufficient as a backup since joining the Preds. He is 27-19-8 in 52 starts and has a 2.65 GAA and a .907SV%.
Before criticizing a player, take a look at the other variables that have an effect on his play. It is time to take a deep breath and lay off Hutton.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.