So You Still Want a New Backup Goaltender?

Hutton has struggled in relief of Pekka Rinne this year, but last year when asked to shoulder the workload, he performed well given the circumstances. It seemed as if the more Hutton played the better he got. The Predators organization made the decision to stick with Hutton this year. Let's see

It has been a well documented conversation this season about Hutton and his relief of Pekka Rinne. One of the hardest jobs in the NHL has to be that of a backup goaltender simply for having to come in cold and face the elite of hockey with limited starts or any momentum. Last season, Hutton played 40 games after Pekka Rinne went down with a hip infection. Being thrust into a heavier workload, Hutton struggled in the first few games but by the end of the year started to make strides and helped the Predators get within three points of going to the playoffs.

This year, until Rinne's injury, he was lucky to play a few times a month.

A comparable situation from last year would be the veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who backed a remarkably good Semyon Varlamov last season. Giguere maintained an admirable .913 SV% and a moderate 2.62 GAA. Varlamov had the heavy workload for the surging Colorado Avalanche last year, so Giguere only came in for fifteen games immediately after Varlamov started the games before. In these games, Giguere posted a 10-3-1 record. Granted, the Avalanche employed a much feared offensive team, but that record is pretty good coming off the bench. Giguere was not without his stinkers, though, having allowed three or more goals five times over the year. Because of these few hiccups, his GAA in games immediately after another goalie started was 2.40, not too far off from his season average but enough to make a difference.

Now for the numbers on Carter Hutton.

Hutton came in for thirteen games immediately after Rinne/Mazanec started the game before and finished with a record of 9-4-0. Yes, you did read that right. The game after Rinne or Mazanec played where Hutton came in, he was 9-4-0. He only allowed three or more goals four times and ended up with a GAA of 2.07 in those games. That is a positive .33 difference between Giguere and Hutton (granted age could be a factor here) but Hutton played for a much worse team last season compared to the Avalanche (although the Avalanche possession numbers were horrendous) and still posted better numbers. Overall in the 2013-14 season, Hutton finished with a .910 SV% and a 2.62 GAA, a mere fraction off from Giguere.

Here is a sample size of other backup goaltenders from last season with 19-25 Games Played:

Goaltender 2013-14 (19-25 GP) GAA SV%
Raanta 2.71 .897
Greiss 2.29 .920
Mazanec 2.80 .902
Stalock 1.87 .932
Budaj 2.51 .909
Lindback 2.90 .891
Giguere 2.62 .913
Talbot 1.64 .941
Peters 2.50 .919
Zatkoff 2.61 .912
Ellis 3.62 .879
Jones 1.81 .934
Nillson 3.11 .896

The average of the stats listed above are 2.53 GAA and .911 SV%.

Hutton checks in with a GAA of 2.62 and a SV% of .910. So it is safe to say he was adequate compared to others playing a similar role. The big difference is Hutton playing 20 more games than his backup counterparts. The extra workload payed off, compared to Mazanec who started off his backup duties winning the Rookie of the Month honors in November 2013 but cooled off considerably with a final stat of 2.80 GAA and .902 SV%.

The argument against Carter Hutton is based now on the "what have you done for me lately?" With the exception of the Montreal game, Hutton has not looked very good. In the six games immediately after Rinne started the prior game this season, Hutton has a 1-3-2 record and a 3.00 GAA. Hutton's numbers for the season as a whole aren't much better with a SV% of .897 and a GAA of 2.88. Hutton has taken a huge step back from his production last season and most of that has to do with him not having the workload to keep him competitive.

This is the quandary.

The entire reason to have a capable backup goaltender is so teams can rest their starting goaltender and still have a chance of winning the games and based on Hutton's numbers from last year, the Predators made the correct decision to stick with him for another year. The data gets skewed because Hutton was called on to play many more games last year and took on the majority of the starts whether in relief or as the starting goaltender. The average SV% of backup goalies in 2013-14 (goalies who played in 10-25 games) was .907. Hutton (40 games total 2013-14) was .910 and Giguere (22 games total 2013-14) was .913, both very close to the average. The big difference is Hutton's numbers this year, albeit a small sample size, show him with a .897 SV%, well under the average for backups from last year with a 1-4-3 record.

Here is a sample of backup goaltenders in the 2014-15 season playing between 9-15 games:

Goaltender GAA SV%
Pickard 2.18 .916
McElhinney 2.98 .916
Mrazek 2.44 .914
Lack 2.61 .912
Johnson 3.38 .870
Stalock 2.65 .905
Montoya 3.09 .887
Svedberg 2.22 .922
Raanta 1.88 .938
Talbot 2.15 .926
Jones 2.20 .908
Nabokov 3.15 .882
Tokarski 2.50 .917
Greiss 2.56 .920
Berra 3.57 .882
Lindback 3.79 .875
Kinkaid 2.54 .913
Average 2.69 .905
Hutton 2.88 .897

The argument can be made both ways in favor of Hutton or derision against Hutton. Based on the numbers from last year, at a glance, it looked like keeping Hutton was the best move. But a look at the bigger picture shows that Hutton only works when he has double the starts of a regular backup goalie thus giving him more ice time and momentum rather than coming in without that luxury.

So we'll pose the question to the OTF reader to sound off below in the poll or in the comments.

What should the Predators do about the backup goaltending in Nashville?

Ride out the storm with Hutton288
Try to get a competent backup in free agency right now29
Trade pieces to get a better backstop14
Bring up Hellberg128
Start Mazanec instead97