Carter Hutton

Carter Hutton named Nashville’s Masterton nominee

By Jim Diamond

Carter Hutton has been selected as the Nashville Predators 2015-16 nominee for the Masterton Trophy, as voted on by the Nashville chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

The Masterton is given annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The award is presented on behalf of, and voted upon by the membership of the PHWA. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards ceremony in June.

Life as a backup goaltender in the NHL isn’t always glamorous, especially when you are backing up Pekka Rinne, who gets very few nights off over the course of an 82-game regular season. Save for injury or illness, Hutton’s name doesn’t often appear on the lineup card.

But a big part of Hutton’s job description is to do all he can to make sure his teammates have a goaltender to work with whenever they need one. This means staying on the practice rink until all of the skaters are finished as well as working with the scratched and injured players after morning skates.

During games in which he doesn’t play, fans watching on TV look forward to Hutton’s in-game hits, where he provides some perspective on the game and punctuates each visit with his should-be trademarked, “Hey, thanks for having me guys,” phrase.

In the offseason, Hutton runs a hockey school for charity in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Hutton’s charity of choice is the Boys and Girls Club of Thunder Bay.

Last summer, Hutton and the NHL Players Association donated goaltender equipment to every minor hockey association in the Thunder Bay area.

Carter Hutton makes potential save of the season

Late in the third period of Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators goaltender Carter Hutton made what could be the save of the season.

With the Predators clinging to a 4-3 lead and on a power play even, Toronto’s Daniel Winnik hit the crossbar from the slot. Tyler Bozak chased down the rebound and threw the puck in front. The puck ricocheted off of Winnik and appeared to be headed by Hutton and into the Nashville net.

But then Hutton had a matrix moment.

“Just a pop out one-timer there,” Hutton said. “It’s one of those ones it hits his body and you are kind of like, ‘Oh no.’ I was able to just kind of spin and had my eye on it and I was able to catch it with my stick. It is one of those ones, you just get lucky sometimes too. You battle on every puck and sometimes it goes your way.”

Hutton had a better look at it than his coach did.

“I saw it quick, but I didn’t know what happened exactly,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “It looked like it was earmarked for the back of the net, but it wasn’t in the back of the net, so something spectacular happened.”

Indeed it did coach.

Now healthy, Pekka Rinne expects to play a lot in 2014-15

By Jim Diamond

When Barry Trotz was the head coach of the Predators, one of his go-to phrases when talking about the team’s goaltending was that he was going to ride Pekka Rinne “like Seabiscuit.” Prior to each season Trotz and goaltending coach Mitch Korn had a plan for the number of games their team’s top netminder was going to play, but circumstances often dictated a change to that schedule.

Now under the direction of new head coach Peter Laviolette, the Predators begin their 2014-15 season Thursday night at home against the visiting Ottawa Senators. Following the team’s Tuesday afternoon practice at Bridgestone Arena, Laviolette said that there is no master plan in place as to how he will use his goaltenders in his first season at the helm in Nashville.

“I think it usually develops as the season goes on,” he said. “You can have a plan I think at the start of the year, but depending on where you are at in the standings and goalie being hot, I think it always changes a little bit.”

After the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, Rinne had surgery on his left hip. He worked hard to get ready for the start of last season and was between the pipes when the puck dropped for the team’s first game Oct. 3.

Fewer than three weeks later, Rinne fell ill and was hospitalized the morning after Nashville’s Oct. 22 at Minnesota. Rinne had developed a dangerous E. coli infection in that same left hip. The repair of and recovery from that infection kept Rinne out of the lineup until early March. The 6’5” Finn missed 51 games.

Now healthy, Rinne is looking forward to getting back to the form where his coach wants him in the game each night.

“Personally, I expect myself to play a lot of games and stay healthy,” Rinne said. “To me, I am just going to focus on starting the season well and keep it going after that. Obviously anytime I feel like I am on top of my game, I want to play every night.”

After a lockout shortened the 2012-13 season to just 48 games and the Winter Olympics compacted last season’s schedule, the 2014-15 season will have a feeling of normalcy to the players and coaches. Rinne wants to get back to the form that made him a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, he finished fourth in the voting for the Hart Trophy, given to the league’s most valuable player.

“I’m excited about this year since for the first time in a couple of years, it is going to be a normal season, a normal schedule,” Rinne said. “It is not going to be so random as the last couple of years; the lockout year and the Olympic year.”

When Laviolette wants to give Rinne a rest, he will turn to Carter Hutton, who is entering his second full NHL season. Prior to last season, Hutton had one game of NHL action on his resume, and with being Rinne’s backup, he wasn’t expecting to see a lot of playing time last season. All of that changed with Rinne’s hip infection.

“Mitch and Barry kind of put a number on how many games I was going to play and what they expected and needed from me,” Hutton said. “Things changed with Pekks going down, obviously I was seeing a lot more action. It was kind of a whirlwind for my first NHL season, but I think it helped me develop. I learned a lot and learned different experiences at this level.”

After a strong start, Hutton hit a rough patch. He worked through that tough stretch and finished the season with 20 wins, including seven in his last nine decisions. That performance was good enough to earn him a new two-year, $1.45 million contract in the offseason.

“Coming into this year, just continue to be good when I am called upon, win my games,” Hutton said. “That’s what it’s about winning hockey games in this league. No matter who is going, me or Pekka, this team is going to give us a good chance to win.”

The Predators finished just three points out of eighth place in the Western Conference last season. With all of the changes made behind the bench and up front with the forwards, the team hopes to add some more scoring punch in 2014-15. Combine those changes with a healthy Rinne and a more experienced Hutton in goal, Nashville hopes to end their two-year playoff absence.

Barry Trotz wants Carter Hutton to get to 20 wins

By Jim Diamond

If all goes according to Barry Trotz’s plan, Carter Hutton will get the start in goal Sunday night in Nashville’s season finale in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild.

The Predators were eliminated from playoff contention with Tuesday’s shootout loss in Dallas, so this will be the last time the 2013-14 Predators take to the ice together. When Hutton leads the team onto the Xcel Energy Center playing surface Sunday, he will be looking for win number 20 on the season.

Trotz sees the 20 wins as more than just a number.

“I’d like to see Carter get 20,” Trotz said Friday when announcing that Pekka Rinne would start Saturday and Hutton Sunday. “If you can get 20 wins in this league as a goaltender, he came in as the backup goaltender, I don’t think you are going to find too many guys that do that. That’s a goal that I would like to have for him and I think that he would like to have himself. That’s like a 20-goal scorer; you’re a 19-goal scorer, almost a 20-goal scorer, you’d like to be that 20-goal scorer.”

Entering Sunday, there are 23 goaltenders with more wins than Hutton this season. All but one of those netminders, Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen being the lone exception, have more games played and games started than Hutton.

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Signed in the offseason to a one-year, two-way contract to be Rinne’s backup, it didn’t appear that Hutton would see a whole lot of action. Rinne was coming off hip surgery performed at the conclusion of last season, but was expected to carry his normal heavy workload this season. That plan was derailed in late October, when Rinne developed an E. coli infection in that same hip, which kept him sidelined until late in the season.

Hutton, who entered the season with just one game of NHL experience, was thrust into the starting role. With their world-class goaltender coming off of a major offseason surgery, relying on him to carry his traditional amount of games was probably shortsighted of the team’s brass going into the season, having such an NHL neophyte second in line behind Rinne, but that was the path they chose.

Rookie Marek Mazanec was recalled from Milwaukee and Trotz looked for consistency from both of his goaltenders as the team struggled through the early months of the season.

“Carter and Maz, we couldn’t give them any confidence, confidence has to be earned,” Trotz said. “They had to earn the confidence of our team, and their play was so inconsistent. Carter could give you one good game, but he couldn’t give you three in a row. Maz could do the same. If you watched them, I tried to ride one for a while and that wouldn’t work, so I would go back to the other one and he’d get one game and he’d get two games, and then we would have a crash. I could have flip-flopped them. I tried a little bit of both and it really was a moving target.”

It should be noted that for a majority of the season, the team struggled to give either of those goaltenders much help in the form of goals scored. The recent offensive explosion the team has experienced is in stark contrast to what they achieved for most of the season, so placing the blame for the team’s struggles only on the goaltenders would be inaccurate.

But with the Predators now scoring goals, and Hutton finding some consistency in his game, he has a chance to finish the season with an impressive 20 victories. That’s not a bad statistic for Hutton’s resume, as he is slated to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.