Wednesday, 16 November 2011

When Is It Too Much Weight For a Goalie's Shoulders?

They say “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” a common phrase that I can remember being said way-back when I was just a little guy.  After Steve Mason’s sensational rookie year where he posted a 2.29 GAA with a record of 33-20-7 that included 10 shutouts, it was clear that Columbus was invested in the development and future of the Oakville, Ontario native.
Since that year however Mason has been on a steady decline, his win percentage has dropped, granted you can’t blame that entirely on him.  But his GAA hasn’t dipped below 3.00 in three years.  It’s not even so much how many goals he lets in, it’s how they are let in and when.  That frustrates me the most and maybe even the entire Blue Jackets fan base?  I can’t be the ONLY person upset by this.
In the midst of this summer’s “hoopla” which consisted of big-name signings in Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski and Vinny Prospal (who has been a beast so far this season), the Blue Jackets piled more stock into their young goaltender by signing of Mark Dekanich.  Wait, who?  Don’t worry; I had to Google him at first also.  I have nothing against Dekanich; I think he is a good goalie who fell off the charts in a system that was set with Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback.  It’s hard to make a name for yourself when you have one career start to date in the National Hockey League.
But his injury hasn’t helped his case unfortunately and who knows when we can expect him to fulfill the role he was brought in for, to help Mason through dark patches. 
The Blue Jackets continue the struggle to find ways to win hockey games, protecting the lead has never been their forte.  They continue to get overwhelmed by opponents; leading to defensive collapses and some awful turnovers in the defensive end.  I know the expectations were high of Mason after his rookie year, but even I don’t expect him to be a miracle worker and be able to stop everything.  Goaltenders thrive on confidence; sometimes confidence is all it takes.   
But what if the confidence is gone?  Then what?
It wouldn’t be too unrealistic to see Columbus make a move to pick up a goaltender that has some NHL experience under their belt.  By “wouldn’t be too unrealistic,” I mean they should have done it five games ago.  With no goaltender for sale in any teams current one and two position, finding a dance partner for Mason who has NHL experience – True NHL experience (no offense Curtis Sanford) isn’t the easiest thing to do.  The ever so popular wish-wash coming out of Long Island in regards to Evgeni Nabakov on where/when he ends up is just enough of a tease for me to scream in my head “Why haven’t they done anything yet?!”  The 36-year old goalie who has nine years of NHL experience on his belt and a cap hit of about $500K seems like a perfect fit, and maybe GM Garth Snow realizes this and is planning on saving this commodity for a later date. 
With the Toronto Maple Leafs publicly saying they have no interest in Marty Turco, this could create an opportunity for Columbus to show interest in another veteran goaltender who has years of experience in the NHL for an efficient price.  Turco, after a dismal performance last year with the Chicago Blackhawks, continues to work out with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in his hometown waiting for a team to sign him.
I have invested my time in Mason for the past three years waiting for him to find his form again that replicates some sign of brilliance that we all remember from that coveted rookie season.  Having the confidence in a goaltender to continue to stand by and wait for overall team production to produce its first winning season since 2008-09 takes a lot of patience. 
If no change is made this season to give Mason and the team some help in the goaltending department, it will be interesting to see where Mason’s game goes from here.  Remember rookie phenom Jim Carey?  Neither does most.

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