How does one evaluate the back up to a below average NHL starter? This is the question that the Winnipeg Jets have had to answer since the team moved to Winnipeg in 2011. Michael Hutchinson was once known as Hutchinfun, a nickname given to him by Melissa Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press. And then it all seemed to fall a part. What started off as a couple of bad months has morphed into a goalie who struggles most games.
Hutchinson is hard to get a handle on and has been since he came into the league. He is a good goalie at other levels and even started off strongly in the NHL. He started struggling around January of last season and never really bounced back from those struggles. So what is Hutchinson? Is he the goalie who came in the league and was much better than Ondrej Pavelec from the start or is he the goalie that can play the odd good game while constantly beating the Chicago Blackhawks? Most importantly, is Hutchinson a goalie who can be a reliable back up on the Jets in the event they do not sign a veteran starter this off season?
Hutchinson actually had decent stretches this year for the Jets. When Connor Hellebuyck was really struggling, Hutchinson was able to step in and provide a few good games so the Jets were not run out of the building on some nights. Maybe that is what Hutchinson is; a decent back up who can be trotted out against the Blackhawks and get the win if needed. He is a below average NHL goalie, but one who fulfills a specific skillset it seems.
The Jets have had their fair share of bad goaltending performances since moving to Winnipeg in 2011. While Hutchinson has provided some of those performances, he is more remembered for how he plays when he is on. He seems unbeatable some nights and other nights he cannot stop a beachball. This might be the way it is when it comes to backup goalies. Hutchinson is what he is and does provide a goalie for the Jets to expose in the expansion draft. In the likely even he does not get chosen by the Las Vegas Golden Knights, he is eligible to be waived by the Jets to be assigned to the Manitoba Moose if the Jets sign that elusive veteran starter. In that scenario, Hutchinson would cost under $200 000 against the cap. That amount is calculated by the difference between league minimum and the players salary.
Michael Hutchinson started off as a hot shot rookie goalie and then sort of started to fall off the cliff. While he is a reasonable back up, he is just that: a back up goaltender. It is possible that he is back next season, but it is also possible that he is not back because the Jets have signed someone else as the starter and Hellebuyck as the back up. What do you see as Hutchinson’s role next season?