I woke up this morning (read: 1:30pm) to find a headline in my Facebook feed reading “It’s time for the Steve Mason experience to end in Columbus” and although I had no intention of writing today, I felt like I had to finally address this.
Mase is an incredible goalie who got a struggling franchise into the playoffs for the first and only time. He quickly became a beacon of hope and change in our city and represented the long-overdue upswing we as a hockey club were waiting for. The age of the Blue Jacket had begun and it was all thanks to a young goalie named Steve Mason!
Then he turned 21…
We have been watching in horror for 3 seasons now after our solitary post-season berth as Mason gets pulled time and again. “Sophomore slump” was our buzz word for the first year and “He just needs his confidence back” and “our defense is terrible” were our excuses for the second. This year we have nothing to say. We say a lot, but none of it means anything. The Jackets continue on their most expensive and worst record start in history and Mason is taking a lot of heat. Everyone is.
Two seasons alongside a veteran goalie who was supposed to give him that leadership that a young player needs didn’t work and now Garon is in Tampa Bay. We said his coach staff was holding him back so we traded in his long-time coach for a new guy, that also didn’t work. Mase is having the worst year of his career. We “fixed” the defense, and that isn’t working. There are a lot of issues with this team this season and Mason not being anything short of a brick wall is not low on the list.
It is absolutely ridiculous to think that ever shot Mason doesn’t save is a shot he shouldn’t have had to face. He’s been out there on his own a lot, but when you’re watching your team head into a shootout (that single OT loss we’ve had and all) you know all three are going in against.
We were losing so we changed coaches, that didn’t work. We were losing again so we changed the team, that didn’t work. We are now losing and losing bad. It’s a hard time to be a fan of the CBJs, especially after such a build up over the summer. We’ve won two games. In both of those games Mason was a phenom, his rookie prowess shining through in every movement. He shut down angles, he stared down shooters and most importantly, he didn’t let a fucking thing past him that the opposition didn’t work for. And when it was over, we as fans cheered til our voices were hoarse and our throats were sore.
Then he played Toronto. He had a bad game. Goalies have bad games. Ryan Miller, one of the best goalies in the world got pulled the night before, it happens. The problem here in Columbus is Mason has a bad game, we lose. We’re are not scoring and bringing the offense we need in Arniel’s “fast-paced, shot heavy, high pressure” system and Mason is taking heat for that. He can’t score goals, our forwards have to. We achieved one goal, one single solitary goddamn goal against Toronto. If Mase would have only given up two goals, which is a good game for a goalie, we still would have lost. Our lack of offense, frankly, is letting Mason down (as well as working on losing Howson and Arniel their jobs).
So what do we do? Trade away a potentially incredible goalie? Hire a more expensive starter and have Mase back him up, humiliating him, humbling him and having quite possibly the most expensive back-up keeping the bench warm? Do we send him down to the AHL and if so who backs up the back up we are starting? And that raises the question, is Mason too far gone for us to recover him? Did our franchise kill a winner? Is a move the only answer?
This horrendous start caught everyone, fan, player and management alike, off guard. No one predicted this. Injuries, low-scoring, depth struggles, it’s a team-wide failure across the board, not Mason’s fault. He’s a part of the problem, not the only problem, in a franchise known for problems.
All we can do is hope Dekanich, Martinek, Carter and Huselius can all come back healthy and stay that way and then produce and then win and then win more. Until then, we have Mason. I don’t think getting rid of him is the answer but I know keeping him isn’t helping anything either. I want to see him succeed and I want him to succeed here.
This season is unfortunately over before it started, not that the playoffs are impossible but highly unlikely. It’s just another year of saying “we’ll get ‘em next year” or as I have come to think of it, another year of being a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets.