If this article would have been written back at the start of December, it would have been completely different. Back in December, Vancouver Canucks young blue liner Ben Hutton was showing great signs of a defender you could trust - you could count on. He was averaging 21:59 a game, just one second less than team leader Michael Del Zotto. Things looked bright for the 24-year-old.
Now scratch all of that. As The Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford recently speculated the second-half decline Hutton now puts his future with the club into uncertainty.
"In the 46 games since, Hutton was a healthy scratch in 12 of them. Then the floor of his season finally collapsed on the weekend because of a troubling infection in his foot, keeping him off of the Canucks’ current road trip.
Now it’s fair to wonder when, and if, he’ll play for the Canucks again."
Things have indeed turned south for the blue liner, who now averages 15:38 per game. Head coach Travis Green recently noted conditioning was an issue for the blue liner - and that's an understatement.
“I thought his game dipped, which I think he’d agree to,” Green said.
“I’d like to see him get stronger,” Green added. “I’d like to see his conditioning be higher. I think that will help his game. I think his game has dipped a little over the year and I think that may be part of it.
“He’s gone through adversity this year and that happens. He’s a young defenceman who hasn’t gone through a lot of adversity in his career, and he has now.”
A plausible solution for the Canucks would be to put Hutton on the trade block this summer. Cap Friendly reports that he has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $2.8 million, which makes him an affordable pickup for teams seeking depth on the back end. However, his trade value has surely been dampen by his on-ice woes so it could push the Canucks to give him another chance in hopes Hutton will respond according by improving his conditioning and his overall game for the upcoming season.
“He needs to play better. We’re going to push him to be a better hockey player.
“Hopefully, he becomes that.”
Whether it is for the Canucks themselves, or to find a perfect trade partner : one thing is sure: Hutton needs to shape up.