Ben Hutton has not looked good as of late. Travis Green needs to show tough love to him as he does to other players on the team.
It’s no secret that head coach Travis Green uses the tough love approach when dealing with his younger players. Whether you like it or not, this is something Vancouver Canucks fans will need to get used to. Looking at individual cases, his methods seem to be working for Jake Virtanen, a player that looks astronomically different from the young man who struggled in Utica last year.
For Brock Boeser, it is still too early to tell if waiting for the third game of the season to deploy him was the correct move. In this small sample size of games to start the season, Green shows that he loves to match lines.
When the opponent shortens their bench, Green will do the same to keep the matchups going. At times, if a younger player is not playing up to snuff, they will get a long ride on the bench during the third period.
Which brings us to the reason for the article: Ben Hutton. From first glance at his stats, Hutton has a power play point. His underlying stats from Corsica.hockey show that his 5-on-5 goals for percentage (GF%) is excellent at 75%.
His relative GF% is 38.6%, meaning the Canucks should score a lot more goals when Hutton is on the ice (in theory). Once again, the sample size is small. Last year, Hutton’s GF% was 40.5 with a relative percentage of -7.19.
Those numbers need context. Last year, the Canucks brought in Erik Gudbranson to act as the stabilizing piece on the blue line. He was supposed to play with Hutton and worry about the defensive side of play so Hutton’s offensive abilities could flourish.
It did not work. The underlying data showed the pair was a disaster, as Gudbranson had a GF% of 35.7 and a relative GF% of -11. Even the eye test showed fans that the pair did not look good. Hutton and Gudbranson did not mesh well at all.
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The Eye Test
tFor this season, Travis Green opted to use our best defencemen in Edler and Tanev to form our top pairing. They would get the tough matchups, but the problem is that left a third pairing of Hutton and Stecher.
These young defencemen have a reduced role, with Stecher averaging 14:28 per game and Hutton averaging 19:38. Why is there a difference? Hutton plays with the man advantage and Stecher has not.
Which brings me back to the eye test. For lack of a better word, Ben Hutton has looked bad. He has made terrible reads, bad passes and at times looks lost out there. Jason Botchford showed in his latest Provies that Hutton was embarrassed by Tanner Glass on one of the Canucks’ power plays against Calgary. Really? Tanner Glass? Botchford says “Hutton is good,” but I think that really stems from his rookie season. Since last season, he has been the opposite.
What Travis Green needs to do
I’m not sure if Hutton is grabbing the stick too tight or if there is some other mental hurdle holding him back. However, I think an effective way to snap him out of his funk is make him a healthy scratch. Before the pitchforks are raised, hear me out.
Last season, Sven Baertschi had a rough start to the year. He only had 10 points in 26 games. His worst outing was a brutal game against the Florida Panthers on December 10th, where he was a minus-three 3 in a 4-2 loss.
Then head coach, Willie Desjardins, chose to make Baertschi a healthy scratch the following night to the outrage of all Canuck fans. The team would lose their next game 3-0, but the scratch was not about making the team better.
It was a message to Baertschi that he needs to be better if he wants to stay in this league. What did Baertschi do in his first game after? He scored two goals on a three-point night and showed why he was a crucial piece of the power play.
I think a healthy scratch could have the same effect for Hutton. A much-needed wake up call to go back to the rookie that made smart decisions and not try to do too much by himself. The Edler injury complicates things, but if the Canucks call up another left-shot defenceman like Philip Holm or Patrick Wiercioch, finding a temporary replacement should be simple.
I am not saying the team should scratch Hutton for a stretch of games. Just one. That’s all it took to get the message through to Sven Baertschi and I think the same can work for Hutton.
He is a nice guy who brings a lot of personality to a team full of pros saying the same old cliched lines. Hutton is in the first year of his bridge deal, but if he continues to play like this, I doubt he will be earning his next contract.