There’s a good chance the Newfoundland Growlers could soon have the same netminding tandem with which they began the season.
If it happens, the challenge will be for the returnees to play as well as the guys that have replaced them.
The dominos began falling in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization on Monday, when the Leafs assigned Michael Hutchison to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.
That move came as the Maple Leafs’ regular netminders — Frederick Andersen and Garret Sparks — both returned to the lineup from injuries in time for Monday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
"Goaltending has not really been an issue for us and these guys have performed well."
— Ryane Clowe
Hutchison, who once starred for the St. John’s IceCaps, had performed fairly well with the Leafs in five starts since being acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers, recording a 2-3-0 record, 2.64 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and one shutout. But with Andersen and Sparks ready to go and Hutchison just one game away from the having played 10 between Toronto and the Florida — a benchmark that would make him eligible for waivers — the reassignment to the Marlies was almost inevitable. And don’t think Toronto losing two goalies — Calvin Pickard and Curtis McElhinney — to waivers before the start of the season didn’t play a part in the decision.
So with Hutchison back in the AHL, the Marlies had four netminders as of Monday evening, with Kasimir Kaskisuo, Eamon McAdam and Michael Garteig also on the Baby Buds’ roster. But even though there is no limit on how many players an AHL team can carry, nobody figures on the Marlies maintaining that kind of a goaltending glut.
So expect Garteig, maybe even McAdam, to soon be back with the ECHL’s Growlers, who leave on a road trip today.
Garteig had started 24 games for the Growlers (25-11-1) before his latest recall to the Marlies earlier this month. It’s been a lot longer since Newfoundland hockey fans watch McAdam play for the ECHL team. He started the Growlers’ very first contest at Mile One Centre, but soon afterwards, was brought up to the AHL club and has remained there ever since, save for one ECHL start in a road game in Brampton.
Garteig was signed to an AHL deal since early December, while McAdam is in the final year of year of an NHL entry-level contract. Kaskisuo (two-way) and Hutchison (one-way) are also on big-league deals.
Whether it’s one or two goalies sent to the Growlers, it stands that somebody will be bumped out.
Brad Barone and Eric Levine split the duties between the pipes during Newfoundland’s just-completed six-game stand at Mile One Centre which saw the home side go 5-1.
Levine won all three of his starts, giving up eight goals in the process. Barone was 2-1 and allowed just seven tallies in doing so. But as good as those numbers are, they won’t be enough to keep either around if two of their counterparts are coming from the AHL.
The Growlers have used five different goalies this season — Mario Culina was brought on after McAdam’s call-up, but left for university at Christmas. Combined, Culina, Barone, and Levine have fashioned a 10-1 record, with a 2.37 goals-against average.
Whatever happens in the next day or so, Growlers’ head coach Ryane Clowe said Barone and Levine have made a good impression in what he agrees have been auditions of sorts.
“I think so … I think you can call it that,” said Clowe after the Growlers’ fifth straight win, a 3-1 decision over the Adirondack Thunder on Saturday night, when Barone earned third-star honours. “We’ll probably get Michael Garteig back eventually. What happens with McAdam, I’m not so sure.
“But if you look at the other goaltenders we’ve used, Culina was 5-0. These guys (Levine and Barone) had just one loss in six games here and that was 2-1 to Jacksonville. Goaltending has not really been an issue for us and these guys have performed well.
“It was an opportunity for them… definitely an audition. No matter what happens with guys maybe coming down, we know things can change quickly in this league and you’ll find yourself needing help again.”