Connor Hellebuyck started in 64 games, and had 67 game appearances overall which was an NHL high this season. This wasn’t a record for goalies by any stretch (it doesn’t even touch the top 50 list of most games played in one season by an NHL goalie) but it was still quite a bit and more than the anyone had anticipated. This also means there were 18 other games that didn’t see Connor start in net and those starts were split by three different goalies which is also something no one really anticipated.
As we wrap up our recap of the members of the Winnipeg Jets 2017-18 roster, this portion of the Logbook is going to be a bit different as we take a look at the three goalies who suited up for the Jets this past season and were not nominated for a Vezina Trophy.
#34 – GOALIE
6’3″ / 202 lbs / Age: 28
Current Contract Status: UFA
PLAYER’S SEASON IN REVIEW
Michael Hutchinson likely didn’t want to spend time in the AHL this season, but he had to know the writing was on the wall when the Jets signed Steve Mason last summer to a two year deal. He did and asked for a trade shortly after Mason was signed, but for whatever reason – either not finding a capable trade partner or just wanting to keep him around – the Jets didn’t deal him.
Hutch responded by dutifully reporting to the Manitoba Moose and was a beast in the AHL. He played in 26 games going 17-5-2 with a .935 save percentage. He also earned a spot in the AHL All-Star game. It was around January that Hutch started yo-yoing between the AHL and NHL rosters as the Jets dealt with injuries. He posted wins at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 30 and on the road with a 33 save performance against the Dallas Stars on February 24. In between those starts, he actually dealt with a concussion issue suffered during a morning skate that took him out of the lineup for a bit.
His last start with the Jets – likely for good – was a bit of a disaster as he played behind a battle weary Jets team and gave up three goals – two of them shorthanded – within the first nine minutes of the first period.
Hutchinson wouldn’t see another minute of ice time after suffering his second concussion of the season in that game. he did get called up in April when Steve Mason went down with injury, but didn’t see any playing time.
#1 – GOALIE
6’1″ / 174 lbs / Age: 22
Current Contract Status: RFA
PLAYER’S SEASON IN REVIEW
If Hutchinson was a surprise part of the Jets season, Eric Comrie was a bit of a shock and even more surprising that the Jets looked to him to fill in relief ahead of Michael Hutchinson back in late November when Steve Mason was ruled out with injury. Eric struggled on the road against Florida as he gave up five goals in a 6-4 Jets loss to the Panthers. On a second go-round with the Jets in late March, he posted a 2-1 overtime win at home against the Kings – a game that was largely dominated by the Jets where he only faced 17 shots in total – before struggling again a little over a week later in a 6-2 loss to the Blackhawks on the road.
Due to the injuries Comrie saw more time in the AHL than probably expected. He posted an 18-13-3 record with a .916 save percentage.
#35 – GOALIE
6’4″ / 210 lbs / Age: 30
Current Contract Status: Signed through 2018-19 season ($4,100,000/yr)
PLAYER’S SEASON IN REVIEW
It was a season from hell for Mason.
The Jets signed Mason with the thought that he was going to be the club’s number one starter for most of the season and provide some stability to a position that the team sorely lacked the year before. The season didn’t start off well and it got worse quickly. A below average pre-season that caused a few concerns gave way to two full on blowout losses to start the season at home to Toronto and on the road in Calgary. The Jets righted the ship with Hellebuyck in goal and then went back to Mason for a third start against Columbus where he again was shelled in a 5-2 loss where he for the third game in a row posted a sub .900 save percentage.
Then the injuries took over. A concussion, a knee injury and another concussion – the second suffered during his return to the lineup in New York against the Rangers where he posted a 31 save shutout.
Mason changed goalie masks to help with the concussion issues and did return to the lineup in April just before the playoffs, but was injured yet again during the post-season.
There may be other players in the league that had tougher seasons than Mason did, but I’m hard pressed to think of any.
A year ago the Jets goaltending situation was a mess which led the Jets to getting Steve Mason in the first place. A year later and at least the starting situation is taken care of – Hellebuyck is a lock as the team’s number one for the foreseeable future.
But the backup situation is still a mess and next season could see Mason being a very expensive, but hopefully reliable backup that can play 15 to 20 games to take some of the load off of Connor Hellebuyck. It could also see the Jets moving Mason on as well documented restricted free agent / cap issues the Jets face may force them to move on without such an pricey backup goalie.
Eric Comrie likely gets a shot at being the Moose number one goalie, but his past season still leaves some doubt for some as to whether he’s going to be an NHL level goalie any time soon if ever.
Hutchinson is likely gone and will look for a more steady NHL job somewhere else. The funny thing is depending on what happens with Mason, the Jets could have a spot for him as a backup goalie, but at the age of 28, Hutch is going to want to be able to challenge for a starters job somewhere and that certainly won’t be in Winnipeg.