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Searching for the Real Steve Mason

Yesterday at RLD Hockey, I penned a blog about Columbus Blue Jackets’ netminder Steve Mason.

You can click here to read it or continue below:

Which Steve Mason will show up this season
By Patrick Hoffman

This is something that Columbus Blue Jackets fans are probably thinking about, considering that their franchise netminder, Steve Mason, has not been the same goaltender that won the Calder Trophy back in 2009.

There is no doubt that Mason is a young, talented and athletic netminder who has the ability to win hockey games on his own and make big saves. With that said, however, he has not done that on a consistent basis over the past two seasons.

In both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, Mason’s goals-against average was just over 3.00 (3.05 and 3.03) and his save percentage was .901 each season. His statistics were not anywhere close to what the top netminders were producing, something he was back in 2008-09.

Mason’s rookie campaign was a dream season for both him and the team. He won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie; he was fourth in Hart Trophy voting as the league’s most valuable player; he was a Vezina Tropy candidate as the league’s top netminder; and he helped get the Blue Jackets into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Everything after that has been well below that season’s performance. He has allowed soft goals, has cost his team several games, has not stopped the puck on a consistent basis and has looked uncomfortable. Simply put, he has mightily underachieved.

With all of that said, Mason has it in him to be the goaltender that he was a few years ago. He has the talent, the skill and all the ability in the world to be a terrific goaltender for the Blue Jackets franchise and to get this team back into the postseason.

However, Mason obviously needs the team in front of him to be better. He needs the offense to score goals and the defense to make his life a bit easier, something that the club has made an effort to do this summer with the additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski.

It will be interesting to see which Mason shows up this season in Columbus. If it is the one that played in 2008-09, the Blue Jackets may be in store for a terrific season. If it’s not, GM Scott Howson may have some thinking to do.

What do you folks think?

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: columbus+blue+jackets, steve+mason

Comments

bezukov's avatar

Mason is damaged goods.  The Green Jackets, as an organization and a fan base make the same mistake year after year of heaping all of the team’s hopes on rookie players.  They did it to Nash, Mason, Filatov, and their about to do it to John Moore and Ryan Johansen. 

They have never allowed Mason time in the minors to get his head back in the game.  He’s had no time to mature as a player and get back to fundamentals, its just been constant pressure to be a franchise goalie.  All players respond to that kind of pressure, some thrive on it, others don’t.  Guess which category Mason belongs to?  I don’t see him getting much better.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 07/20/11 at 01:15 PM ET

Viqsi's avatar

They did it to Nash, Mason, Filatov, and their about to do it to John Moore and Ryan Johansen. 

For someone who claims to live in Columbus, you are astonishingly clueless about the state of the team here.

Howson is on published record as saying that Johansen is presently not ready and needs to improve over the summer to be able to make the team - and if he does, he’d be behind Carter (remember him?), Brassard, and Vermette and/or Pahlsson on the depth chart, centering a third scoring line with protected minutes. And Moore? He’s in the same position as Brendan Smith up there - i.e. he’ll play only if disaster strikes and we have no other options.

We decided to put our hopes on an All-Star center acquisition this year. It seems to make more sense. smile

Posted by Viqsi on 07/20/11 at 04:49 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

I lived in Cincinnati for three years, and given the BJ’s track record of pulling out the stops in January to squeak into the playoffs and attempt to draw in 10,000 fans a game…I don’t believe Howson for one second; they’ll call these rookies up.

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 07/20/11 at 04:56 PM ET

Viqsi's avatar

I don’t doubt they’ll play for about nine or ten games. Heck, Johansen might scare people and stay longer. But to claim that the team’s hopes are riding on ‘em is just insane.

Posted by Viqsi on 07/20/11 at 05:04 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

I lived in Cincinnati for three years, and given the BJ’s track record of pulling out the stops in January to squeak into the playoffs and attempt to draw in 10,000 fans a game…I don’t believe Howson for one second; they’ll call these rookies up.

Thank you.

Heck, Johansen might scare people and stay longer.

I know I’m inviting a shout match here…. but… please, read what you just said, then see my first comment.

And Moore? He’s in the same position as Brendan Smith up there - i.e. he’ll play only if disaster strikes and we have no other options.

Columbus is about one or two blue line injuries away from possibly calling Moore up.  The Wings make a point of being deeper than that.  I’m sure Smith will get some ice time in the NHL this year, but I doubt it will be due to him filling in for any long term injuries.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 07/20/11 at 05:40 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

I know I’m inviting a shout match here

*shouting

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 07/20/11 at 05:47 PM ET

Viqsi's avatar

So who’s Detroit’s #7 and #8 defensemen, if Smith isn’t in there? Commodore and Exelby? In that case, I guess we’ll just be leaning on Aaron Johnson and Nick Holden. We’ve got all summer to pick up another AHLer too if need be. Last year, he played for all of two games when we had three defensemen out all at once - that’s including Commodore’s banishment to the AHL for overwhelming suck and attitude problems.

And in Johansen’s case, there is a vast, vast difference between “performing so consistently well he’s earned the right to stay” and “rushed because the team is hopeless without him.”

Posted by Viqsi on 07/20/11 at 07:33 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

1. Lidstrom
2. Stuart
3. Ericsson
4. Kronwall
5. White
6. Commodore
7. Kindl
8. Janik
9. Smith

Its not unrealistic that Smith gets some minutes in the pros this season, but bringing Smith into this discussion was a bit of a red herring anyway.  The Wings don’t rely on one or two players to try and crutch their way into the post season, nor do they throw up their hands and trot out their trophy prospects before they’re ready because they’ve run out of ideas.  The Jackets have been guilty of doing both.  Smith and Moore aren’t in comparable positions in the sense you’re arguing.  I’d bet good money that if it came down to it Ken Holland would find a veteran free agent in the bargain bin before he relied on a prospect (Smith) who has played all of 63 games professionally (in the minors) to cover the sixth spot on defense.

The fact is that the CBJ either (A) brings talent up, or (B) relies on rookies, way too early in their careers and the examples of this aren’t hard to spot.  Even Rick Nash has signs of stunted growth as a player.  If I’m so wrong, why is it that you haven’t made a sound over my comments on Mason?

And in Johansen’s case, there is a vast, vast difference between “performing so consistently well he’s earned the right to stay” and “rushed because the team is hopeless without him.”

I would agree, if we were talking about the next super star in waiting, but we aren’t.  Any hockey team in the NHL would be delighted to see a guy like Johansen develop and make sure he gets some minutes, but the competitive teams wouldn’t make him a staple right away.  The Jackets fans have a real messiah syndrome when it comes to rookies, remember the way you guys got all flowery over Sestito last year?  Don’t be surprised if management folds to fan pressure and calls him up either this year or the next before he is ready to be an NHLer.

And by the way, I hope none of this is coming off as personal, it isn’t meant to be.  Its good to have some passionate discussion with some one of another viewpoint!

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 07/20/11 at 09:21 PM ET

Viqsi's avatar

1. Tyutin
2. Wisniewski
3. Methot
4. Martinek
5. Clitsome
6. Russell
7. Holden
8. Johnson
9. Savard (maybe; Moore came up for two games ‘cause Savard was on a roll and we didn’t want to distract him)
10. Moore

Yeah, I’d prefer to have actual top-pairing guys, but, hey, we’ve done better with much worse. :D

The era of the Jackets constantly rushing prospects largely ended with Doug MacLean (and thank the Good Lord Almighty for that!). If we were still rushing folks like we used to, Moore would have been in the 09-10 starting lineup (based on his camp performance), Kubalik would have made the team out of camp this year, Mayorov would have made the team two or three years ago, and Johansen would already be our struggling #3C.

We’d love to be able to have Johansen in Springfield this year. Sadly, he’s ineligible due to age. Had the same problem with Voracek. (Makes me wish the CHL protected ages were determined the same way as NHL draft eligibility ages so these guys don’t “slip through”... but that’s a separate rant.)

As for your comments on Mason, I haven’t brought them up because he’s an exception to that rule. Generally if a guy wins the Calder in his first pro year, he’s pretty damn good. I’ve sometimes figured that we probably should have given a bit more minors time, but ultimately I have confidence that he’ll do fine under Ian Clark’s full-time tutelage - his good spans last year were when Rook was in town, keeping him on-task. Long-term, I’m not worried about Mase at all. That said, that’s mostly my opinion and so there’s not much logical debate to be had. Alas!

The Jackets fans have a real messiah syndrome when it comes to rookies, remember the way you guys got all flowery over Sestito last year?

Oy gevalt. That so was not me. Anyone at all who was getting flowery over Sestito is/was an idiot and their opinion should not be considered rational. wink

If anything, the messiah syndrome (another Doug MacLean gift) has led to a antimessiah backlash - I hear more about how Johansen has to be traded before he “inevitably busts” than I do about how he’ll save the franchise. For my part, I’d say both of those extremes are batsh*t insane. smile

We’re not planning on making Johansen a team staple unless he turns out to actually be a superstar - and if he turns out like Mase has so far (one year of stardom followed by massive slump) we can get away with sending him to the minors much more easily. We’ve got six NHL centers now (seven if you want to stretch and count Umberger as well); we certainly can afford to wait.

And no, it’s not personal, it’s just annoyingly outdated. Yeah, okay, we don’t wait as long as Detroit, but few teams do, and some of the ones that don’t are pretty competitive in their own right. smile

Posted by Viqsi on 07/21/11 at 01:29 PM ET

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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.