Questions arose earlier this morning when the Maple Leafs announced that the team had recalled goaltender Michael Hutchinson from the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.
Questions continued when it was noted that backup goalie Garret Sparks was missing from practice this morning.
Now, it seems the message is clear.
It is now reported that Sparks' stall and gear are gone from the Maple Leafs' dressing room.
Hutchinson was acquired by the Leafs from the Florida Panthers last December in return for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He played in five games for Toronto right after, as both Andersen and Sparks were sidelined with injuries. After posting a 2-3-0 record with a .914 save percentage, Hutchinson was sent down to the Marlies, where he’s gone 14-4-1 with a .914 save percentage since.
Andersen is expected to be used as the starting netminder for the Leafs' final game of the season against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Sparks played his last game of the regular season on Tuesday as Toronto fell 4-1 at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. The backup goalie would have preferred to end the year on a positive note. He would also probably would have preferred to keep his spot in the Leafs' room...
The second half of Sparks’ first full NHL season hasn't been all that great. Since Dec. 28, Sparks has taken part in 12 games, posting a 3-8-0 record with an .898 save percentage.
Sparks is not eligible to play for the Marlies in the playoffs and he would require waivers to be sent down... The Marlies are the real losers here, having no number one goalie for the rest of the year and the postseason...
After practice, head coach Mike Babcock revealed that Sparks was expected to spend the next 10 days with the goalie coaches and that Hutchinson is now the backup until further notice.
Here is what Babcock told TSN's Kristen Shilton on making the decision now on Sparks:
"We believe in Sparky, so we went back to the well a number of times...we chose to do everything we could to help get his game where it needed to be, and now the team is way more important than any individual."