The Buffalo Sabres signed Matt Hackett to a one-year deal today, which can only mean one thing for the young goaltender: here’s your chance, kid, to impress your
Can you “hack it?”
Yep – I went there.
When the Sabres acquired Hackett and Johan Larsson from the Minnesota Wild for then-captain Jason Pominville last season, it was a sign that Buffalo’s front office was planning for life without Ryan Miller. I say this because Buffalo already has an abundance of goalie prospects – primarily Connor Knapp, Nathan Lieuwin, and Andrey Makarov. While each of these prospects are close in age to Hackett, he has one thing that none of the other Sabres prospects can lay claim to: experience playing in the NHL.
Now, let’s make sure we all understand what I mean by the word, “experience.” In this instance, “experience” translates roughly into “having played an NHL game so far in his career” – specifically, 13 games, in Mr. Hackett’s case. So no, he doesn’t have a HUGE advantage over his competition, but if the Sabres are looking for their next back-up goalie (I’m assuming Enroth will be handed the starting job should Miller depart), they ought to start with the kid who has actually logged time in the major leagues. Hackett has already played over 100 regular season and playoff games in the AHL, as well. The bottom line is that he has played a significant number of games at a higher level than Knapp, Lieuwin, and Makarov, so it is fitting that the Sabres appear to be giving Hackett the chance to show them that he is ready to remain in the NHL next season.
Back to my terrible pun of whether or not he can live up to his name and hack the job: early results suggest that Hackett possesses the skill to become a competent, possibly even starter-worthy, NHL goaltender. His NHL numbers are not amazing – 13 games played, a record of 3-7 with a GAA of 2.674 and a save percentage of .914 – but you have to consider the Minnesota Wild teams that he played on during those seasons, and the fact that even with those numbers, at least one blog gave him a favorable report grade for the 2011-2012 season, in which he played 12 of his 13 total NHL games. His number in the AHL are solid – 89 regular season games with the Houston Aeros with a 43-30-10 record, and a record of 3-0 with the Rochester Americans last season – but so were David Leggio’s and we all know what happened to him.
I would like to see the Buffalo Sabres give Hackett a meaningful number of NHL starts next season, in order to give him a chance to prove himself. Minnesota fans were big on his potential, but the sample size of his NHL career was way too small for anyone to really know for certain what kind of goalie they had in him. Only the Sabres front office knows how they will provide this kid with a healthy number of starts, while simultaneously juggling Miller’s and Enroth’s needs, but more than any other prospect in the Sabres pipeline, Hackett represents the future of Sabres goaltending. Hopefully, he is up for the challenge.