workloads

Carter Hutton opens up about vision issues, tough Sabres season

Carter Hutton didn’t want to use his vision issues as an excuse for a rough season with the Sabres. Hutton opened up to the Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski about his struggles with convergence insufficiency, and it’s a fascinating read.

Essentially, Hutton struggled to track pucks thanks to his left eye moving slower than his right. After receiving advice from the Sabres’ staff, Hutton sought out specialists and started to feel back on track by January.

“[Therapy] became part of my daily routine,” Hutton said. “I would do a ton of different eye training and things to get better at that. In the moment it was obviously tough. Now, moving forward, I learned a lot of skills to help improve that area and make my eye strength better and work on stuff. We weren’t sure what it was. It was something I managed throughout the season.”

Interestingly, Hutton told Lysowski that he started to feel back to normal during a tough Jan. 11 outing against the Canucks. (Sometimes results and feelings don’t always match up, huh?)

Hutton cannot pin all struggles on vision problems, but …

Now, Hutton himself didn’t chalk up all of his struggles to vision issues.

Even if you jump past some very difficult months, Hutton merely managed a 6-8-0 record and mediocre .901 save percentage starting with that Canucks loss.

That said, it will be interesting to see how Hutton performs if he puts his vision challenges behind him. Now, sure, the “struggling player will turn things around” story is a trope; we’re merely seeing it drop at a different time because of the pandemic interruption.

Consider this a story to watch heading into 2020-21 nonetheless.

More evidence that NHL teams need to manage goalie fatigue

Broadly speaking, I’ve often wondered: how many NHL players could benefit from, say, LASIK corrective vision surgery? Smart teams turn over every stone to try to get an edge, and there might be jelly in that donut. Incremental improvements can mean quite a bit in hockey.

Hutton’s vision struggles are also a reminder of how things can fall apart rapidly for goalies, in particular. It’s plausible that Hutton became so preoccupied with his vision that other parts of his game faltered. Or, really, when you really struggle (Hutton suffered through a personal 13-game losing streak), then sometimes you feel pressured to do too much.

It’s another testament to managing the person, not just the goalie. And maybe most importantly, managing that person’s workload.

Consider factors that increase the likelihood of developing convergence insufficiency, via Cedars Sinai:

You are mostly likely to notice symptoms of CI when you do close visual work, such as reading. Symptoms are even more likely if you do this for a long period of time. Extreme tiredness (fatigue) also can bring on symptoms.

Sounds like something a goalie might be at risk for, eh? (And also, gulp, bloggers.)

Really, one cannot help but wonder if goalies silently deal with similar vision or eye problems.

We’ve certainly learned of goalies acknowledging the strain that comes with the position, especially when facing bigger workloads. Lightning star Andrei Vasilevskiy admitted he was feeling tired when he made the jump to No. 1 in 2017-18. During the same season, Capitals workhorse Braden Holtby mentioned that his fatigue issues were mental, rather than physical.

Too much time for Hutton to resolve vision and other issues, or just right?

For better and worse, Hutton will get a long break from NHL hockey. As you likely know, it’s possible that the 2020-21 season may begin in December, or possibly even later.

By then, Hutton may be long beyond any vision issue. Even so, he’ll likely need to shake off any rust.

It should also be interesting to compare and contrast Hutton with a goalie who might go the distance during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the break between the end of 2019-20 and the beginning of 2020-21 is compressed as some expect, will Hutton and a few others gain a big edge?

After all, Hutton showed some serious promise as at least a platoon goalie during his time with the Blues. Hutton has one year left on his current contract, so the Sabres have incentive to figure out the best scenario. (Or, you know, maybe they’d trade Hutton?)

Overall, Hutton’s future and how goalies might be affected by all of this turbulence ends up being a lot to take in. You know, sort of like trying to keep track of an extremely fast-moving piece of vulcanized rubber.

MORE: Sabres fans are fed up with losing, and so is Jack Eichel.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Game of the Week preview: Are the Rangers playing Henrik Lundqvist too much?

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During the last few years, the New York Rangers have given Henrik Lundqvist a staggering amount of starts for two main reasons: 1) he’s an exceptional goalie and 2) the team rarely has any margin of error, so they cannot play a lesser netminder.

Yet during this off-season, the team made a wise decision by signing an experienced, capable backup in Martin Biron. Biron seemed like the ideal No. 2 in New York; he’s talented enough that he actually started a bit in the league but flawed enough that Lundqvist wouldn’t be worried about a goalie controversy.

Lundqvist still received the majority of starts, but Biron appeared in 17 games (most of which he started, a few in relief when Lundqvist struggled) before he suffered a frightening collar bone injury on the evening after the trade deadline.

Because of that injury and the Rangers’ general tendency to play Lundqvist the majority of time anyway, King Henrik hasn’t missed a start since February 7th. He’s played 16 consecutive games between the pipes, with no sign that he’ll get a breather in the next 10 contests. (Unless, of course, he is sidelined with an injury from Friday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.)

Now, it’s true that the Rangers have dealt with a slew of injuries during the 2010-11 season, with stars such as Marian Gaborik missing time. But Biron’s injury might be one of those subtle losses – and poorly timed ones – that might end up being big blow for the team. The Rangers have been forced to give Lundqvist start after start with Biron on the shelf, which isn’t always a great formula for success in the playoffs.

Even if Lundqvist is healthy enough to play every game, the Rangers might want to consider walking a tightrope between resting him a bit and ensuring their spot in the playoffs. Sure, the extra revenue from a few first round games is great, but if your team has no chance to advance in the postseason, then making the playoffs isn’t nearly as beneficial as it might seem.

So, what do you think? Are the Rangers leaning on their elite goalie too much or should they just throw caution to the wind to protect their spot in the East’s top eight? Let us know in the comments.