Before tonight’s divisional match-up with the New York Islanders the Flyers front office was busy wrapping up one important piece of pending business: netminder Steve Mason’s new deal. After taking a “prove it” 1-year $1.5 million deal to cover the 2013-14 season, general manager Paul Holmgren rewarded the 25-year old with a little security in the form of a 3-year extension. Some are scratching their as heads as to “why now?” Instead of after a full season in orange and black. This is due to Mason’s history in Columbus and recent struggles. So was this the right move? Or another Bryzgalov-type mistake?
Mason’s first month or so was ecstatic; he was the only reason the team was even competitive. Since then, there have been ups and downs. However, his numbers are somewhat misconceiving towards his impact on the Flyers results. Since December 19th, Mason has started 10 games with an .896 save percentage. That percentage is terrible compared to the .940% he was carrying during the first 20 games or so.
Those mediocre results have some critics concerned that Mason’s career path is repeating itself. During his rookie campaign with the Blue Jackets, the goalie won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year; the following three seasons were dreadful. But Mason’s recent statistics are somewhat misleading.
First, the Flyers defense has been especially mediocre since the start of December. Meszaros has been putting up points, but is a liability in his own zone. Timonen cannot keep up with quick competition anymore. Streit seems to pinch on every offensive possession, leaving his goaltender constantly exposed at the other end. And Coburn has excellent speed but sometimes finds himself out of position. Meanwhile, Luke Schenn has clearly regressed since the end of last season. It can’t all be blamed on Steve Mason.
Secondly, let’s examine his recent statistics. If you remove Mason’s worst performance (a 5-goal stinker against Tampa Bay) his save percentage jumps from .896 to .908. Remove his second worst performance (a 3-goal WIN against Buffalo) and the percentage goes to .914. Take out just two of his last ten starts and the numbers are very respectable. Mason has still been a solid goaltender.
So while it may be a gamble to commit to another netminder following the Bryzgalov/Bobrovsky disaster, Mason may not be as much of a concern as some will make it out to be. And considering this season’s 1-year $1.5 million deal, the entire contract could be considered 4-years at $13.8, which averages to a much more respectable $3.45 million per year (instead of $4.1). Critics should atleast wait and reserve judgement until after the season before criticizing Holmgren for another mistake in net.