Toronto backup goaltender Michael Hutchinson says there’s no denying that his recent demotion to the AHL was a difficult situation. However, he’s willing to put all that behind him and take his second chance that’s being given to him by new head coach Sheldon Keefe. Hutchinson tells Sportsnet he has talked to Keefe at length since being called back up to the main roster. While he won’t give details on exactly what was discussed, he’s stressing the tone and flow of the conversation are both something he’s very happy with.
Hutchinson adds he’s had many conversations about his demotion since going 0-4-1 to start the season. That includes with GM Kyle Dubas, Keefe, and the head coach of the Marlies, among others.
“Everyone kind of talking to make sure that you’re OK,” Hutchinson told Sportsnet. They care about you as a person, and that definitely goes a long way. The conversations were good because they weren’t one-way conversations. It wasn’t them talking at you or down to you, you know? There’s a lot of give-and-take on both sides, and that’s the way you can kind of come to grips with the situation you’re in and move forward.”
Former Leafs coach Mike Babcock had a system for back-to-back games; the backup netminder always started in the second one. It’s not really surprising that Keefe plans to deviate from that system.
“My position on it is that I don’t think I have one position,” Keefe says. “I think each situation is unique, and you look at each situation as that.”
It’s hard not to think that stance makes a lot of sense. That’s likely why Hutchinson sees his call up to Toronto as a new start.
“Mentally, yes,” Hutchinson said. “I can’t change what happened in the first little bit, but now I can focus on the rest of the season, take it one day at a time and just working on building towards having that consistency in helping the team win games.”
Keefe won’t say exactly when “Hutch” will get his next start, but the analysts are betting it’s likely to come Friday in a matinee game against the Sabres in Buffalo. AHL goaltenders are used to afternoon starts.
“When you play consistently at seven o’clock and then you have an afternoon game, sometimes it does throw you off because hockey players are creatures of habit,” Hutchinson explains. “In the past, I got caught up in trying to implement my seven o’clock game routine into an earlier start, but that doesn’t always work out. I personally [developed] a slightly different routine for a four o’clock game.
As for why Keefe decided to get Hutchinson back and send Kasimir Kaskisuo down to the Marlies after just one game (a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh), Keefe says it just made sense.
It wasn’t really necessarily one versus the other. It was that Hutch has played and is sharp and, of course, has the experience here,” Keefe told Sportsnet. “We want to give him another chance.”
It’s a second chance that Hutchinson is more than willing to take, and he plans to try his best to take advantage of it.