To use the old sports cliche, 2015-16 was a season to forget for Michael Hutchinson. The 26-year-old went from notable free agent feather in GM Kevin Cheveldayoff's cap, to playing second fiddle behind rookie and co-saviour of the franchise Connor Hellebuyck. At his lowest point, Hutch played just once in a 16 game stretch lasting from December 27th to February 2nd, with Helle taking the remaining 15.
Over 30 Games Played, Hutchinson posted a record of 9-15-3, four fewer wins than both Hellebuyck and Ondrej Pavelec. While his Overall Sv% was higher than Pavelec's, it was boosted by a rather high PP Sv% (which rather confusingly refers to when the Winnipeg Jets were shorthanded). Not to downplay Hutch's accomplishment, but it's fair to question PP Sv% as a significant measure, and when comparing the list of Ev Sv% leaders versus their PP Sv% counterparts, my inclination is to give greater weight to the former. As per NHL.com:
Among the 58 goaltenders with 20+ GP, Hutch's .907 Sv% ranked 48th, sandwiched in-between 2015-16 luminaries Jonathan Bernier and Kari Lehtonen. His .904 PP Sv% made a good account of itself, coming in 12th, however Hutchinson's Ev Sv% might be kindly referred to as abysmal.
His .906 Ev Sv% was third worst in the league, better than only Eddie Lack and Jonas Hiller. When Mike Condon and Keith Kinkaid have the more favourable save percentages, there may be cause for alarm.
These numbers were quite the fall from grace for the Barrie, ON native. Hutch's 2014-15 numbers make for a stark contrast against those from 2015-16:
Among the 50 goalies with 20+ GP in 2014-15, Hutch's .914 Sv% ranked 28th, while his .924 Ev Sv% was 23rd. The only apparent consolation to be had is how Eddie Lack experienced an even greater season-to-season descent.
The dip in Hutchinson's numbers continues to present itself when breaking down "save percentage" further. First, a quick primer: War-on-ice distinguishes between three different "zones" based on expected shooting percentage, those being low-danger (yellow), medium danger (red) and high-danger (blue). As Greg Balloch of InGoal Magazine said, "It is a simplistic, but effective proxy for shot quality". Courtesy war-on-ice:
WIth those zones defined and displayed (in a rather phallic manner, it must be said), let's take a look at Michael Hutchinson. As the 5v5 numbers below show (again thanks to war-on-ice), Hutch experienced dips in Sv% across the board.
Hutchinson's 2014-15 High-Danger Save Percentage already wasn't anything to write home about. His 82.01 Sv%H ranked 42nd among the 63 goaltenders with 500+ minutes played at 5v5, an okay if underwhelming result. But come 2015-16, "okay" turned into horrendous.
This season, there were 69 goaltenders with 500+ 5v5 minutes played. Michael Hutchinson's 78.66 Sv%H ranked 63rd. While it's nice that Hutch now placed above Keith Kinkaid, he also came in below Garret Sparks and Pekka Rinne. High-Danger Save Percentage isn't everything, but it's certainly not a metric where one wants to find themselves rubbing shoulders with Pekka Rinne.
But in the interest of ending on a positive note, Hutchinson sure didn't wiff on this chance, regardless of what "danger zone" it fell into:
— Greg Balloch (@GregBalloch) February 28, 2016
Has Michael Hutchinson played his way out of the organization, the NHL, or both?
Barring injury or alien invasion, it seems unconscionable that Connor Hellebuyck won't be on the Winnipeg Jets roster next season. Hellebuyck's NHL debut was imperfect but promising, and his .922 Sv% with the 2015-16 trainwreck of a Manitoba Moose squad simply gives further proof that he's beyond the AHL.
Couple this with Ondrej Pavelec's contract. Regardless of your thoughts on the 28-year-old, his remaining year at $3.9 million provides a certain level of security (not to mention the case to be made for Pav being a better option than Hutch regardless). While a trade or buyout might still occur, the safer bet is that Pavelec will be on the NHL roster for 2016-17.
In contrast to Hellebuyck Ascendant and the $3.9 million dollar man, Michael Hutchinson is an RFA coming off a $575,000 AAV and an abysmal year. While Hutch would make for a cheap NHL backup, it again seems incredibly unlikely that there's room for him at the inn, and his trade value can't be much of anything.
If signed to a minimal NHL salary, two-way contract, perhaps he could serve as a veteran option for the Moose. While there is definitely appeal to providing the still-developing Eric Comrie a solid partner, it's fair to worry over how playing time would be divided between them. After Hellebuyck's reassignment on February 12th, Comrie played in 11 games, versus 20 for Helle. A similar situation with Hutchinson replacing Hellebuyck would be cause for concern, but this is perhaps a conversation to have with whomever assumes the mantle of Moose head coach.
No matter what happens, we'll always have this moment to cherish:
Dustin Byfuglien photobombs Michael Hutchinson https://t.co/5dWkdmXDj3
— M Remis (@mremis) February 15, 2015
What say you, both on Hutchinson's 2015-16 season and his future in Winnipeg? Be sure to share your thoughts, questions and concerns in the Comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!