After being one of two players to appear in all 82 games for the Vancouver Canucks last season (Henrik Sedin was the other), Michael Del Zotto will not be in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The 28-year-old defenceman will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his brief Canucks career, making way for Ben Hutton, who draws into the lineup for the first time this season.
“It’s opportunity [for Hutton], for sure,” head coach Travis Green told reporters following practice. “It’s not an easy scratch. [Del Zotto’s] a great character guy for our room. He does all the right things. Plays hard.”
Del Zotto and Hutton were at the centre of the eye-test/analytics debate last season. Finishing tied for second in points and first in goals among Canucks defencemen, Del Zotto was continually praised by Green. Averaging 20:48 of ice time, only Alex Edler played more per game.
But Del Zotto’s underlying numbers were troubling. With a 46.05 Corsi-for percentage, only Erik Gudbranson fared worse among Vancouver blueliners.
After being relied upon early last season, it didn’t take long before Hutton lost the confidence of the coach and was routinely made a healthy scratch. This came at the protest of the analytics community, as Hutton seemed to be faring just fine by the underlying numbers.
But Hutton failed Green’s eye-test, as well as the traditional metrics. He didn’t score a goal and had just six assists in 61 games. Though he lost his confidence and struggled in the second half, in contrast to Del Zotto, he finished third among Canucks defencemen in Corsi-for percentage (49.15%).
Green wanted Hutton to return to the team in better shape this season, and by all accounts, that was mission accomplished. He was given prime ice time during the preseason, including lots of power play time, but failed to register a point.
“I don’t think Del Zotto’s been terrible,” Green said. “But I want Hutton back in and see where he’s at. We’re trying to push forward and make our team better and we need some defencemen to take some steps. This is part of the process.”
After a season where he loathed to bench veteran players, the Canucks’ bench boss is sounding like a man coaching a rebuilding franchise. The move comes a week after Sam Gagner was cut from the team, so there seems to be a shift in approach this season.
Hutton skated with Troy Stecher at practice. The other two pairings are expected to be Edler with Chris Tanev, and Gudbranson with Derrick Pouliot. The team is making one other change for tonight’s game – as Tim Schaller draws in for Tyler Motte.
“It’s a fresh start. Last year I wasn’t happy with how the season went for myself or the team, but we’re on a fresh start and I’m going to keep it simple out there.” @BHutt10 makes his season debut tonight. pic.twitter.com/64LaiP9llm
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 9, 2018