On Friday afternoon, it was announced that the Leafs called up recently acquired Marlies goalie Michael Hutchinson. Later in the day, it was announced that backup goalie Garret Sparks would still be on the roster, but leave the team to train with 2 goalie coaches to get his groove back essentially. The length of this training was said to be 10 days by Babcock, but I expect it to be for the rest of the season as both Hutchinson and Sparks can’t go to the AHL without clearing waivers.
This move came at no surprise as it was and should’ve been expected based on Sparks’ unimpressive play this year. Sparks played only 20 games which most were the second game of a back-to-back. He posted under average numbers which were 8 wins, 10 total losses. 2 games he came in due to Andersen being pulled. Through those games he posted just over .900 SV% at .902 SV% with a 3.15 GAA. These numbers to no one’s surprise were very worrying to the coach. His play and confidence were negatively affected. He called out the team but couldn’t answer.
Sparks has a fresh 2 year deal. Right now, he’s no longer the backup. Hutchinson is. For next year, you can sure as hell expect him to come back more ready than ever trying to pry the backup spot from candidates like Hutchinson (if re-signed). Sparks needs a confidence boost and needs to improve his play. He can’t do that in 10 days or with the team right now. He needs to find his mojo back and take his role as Andersen’s backup next year.
He was the best goalie in the AHL last year, this is a confidence problem. Don’t expect any less from him.
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Sources: Sportsnet.ca, NHL.com