Steve Mason got all three starts this week, meaning he’s started seven of the last eight games in goal. Mason is definitely making himself a part of the equation, posting a 8-5-1 record with a 1.98 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. Mason is third in the NHL in goals-against average and 10th in save percentage, making his start a definite bright spot in an otherwise mediocre-to-bad season for the team. The more Mason plays, the more the team seems to gather around and him and their confidence in him grows. The door was opened a crack for him by Pascal LeClaire’s injuries and Fredrik Norrena’s poor play, and Mason has more than made the most of his opportunities. He’s very quickly making himself into the goalie of the future for this team, which might make LeClaire a trade possibility to get help in other areas (power play, scoring).
In more goalie news, due to Mason’s continued success and Norrena’s resulting dearth of play at all, the team has put Norrena on waivers. Teams have until noon on Tuesday to claim him. If he’s not claimed, the Jackets can send him to AHL-affiliate Syracuse. He previously turned down a reconditioning assignment in Syracuse pushed for by the team. The team apparently has a plan for what they will do if no one claims Norrena, but they will not reveal their plan.
In other news, Tom Reed in the Dispatch had an interesting column this week relative to the economy and the Blue Jackets’ mid-term future. Reed looks at how the fan support has waned as the team has become less of a “novelty” and fewer tickets are being sold, up against the struggling Ohio economy as it relates to local revenue as well as the global economy and how it will affect a mid-level sport such as hockey, not to mention the fact that in Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Jakub Vorcek, and Steve Mason the team has four young player it will probably want to try to lock into contracts in the next few years. “Next season, the cap is expected to remain close to its current figure of $56.7 million. But it could plummet the following season, given the instability in global markets and the sports world. Although no one in the Jackets’ front office will admit it, a big factor in the organization’s decision to trade the unpredictable Nikolai Zherdev was the prospect of having to sign him to a lucrative long-term deal after this season.”
The Jackets have three games this week, two on the road. They host juggernaut San Jose on Wednesday, and then head out to the Southwest, playing at Dallas on Thursday and at Phoenix on Saturday. They seem to always struggle with Phoenix, and San Jose is a tough team to play no matter where you play them. Dallas is the worst team in the conference, so naturally the Jackets get them on the road on the back end of a back-to-back. In short, it’s going to be a tough week.
Hot:The Penalty Kill. As bad as they had been, things seem to have solidified a bit. Through Sunday, the penalty kill has killed off 14 out of their last 15 power plays, which has helped to stabilize an area that was causing them serious problems. Part of that has been the play of Steve Mason, part of it is the defense settling in and stepping up their penalty kills; the biggest part, however, is that they are taking fewer and fewer bad penalties. Either way, it’s a big boost, as the team has now moved up to 80% on the penalty kill, good enough for a move up to 21st (yes, that’s actually a move UP for them recently!).
Not: The Power Play. Still. Last in the NHL, at just a touch over 10%. Second-worst in the league in short-handed goals allowed with eight. They have no one to run the point. They need some kind of shot in the arm at that position to help free up the goal-scorers. As it is, they have a tough time keeping the puck in the zone and setting anything up on the power play because of the lack of a solid power play captain at the defensive point. I think the team might (might) consider shopping someone like Pascal LeClaire–due to the emergence of Mason–if it would bring a bona-fide power-play-captain type of defenseman. That’s just my hunch.
Forward Derek Dorsett continues to recover from his broken finger, and is expected to sit down with team doctors Tuesday. He hopes to get cleared to play at that meeting.
Defenseman Rostislav Klesla, recovering from his high ankle sprain, is hoping to return to practice at some point in the coming week.
Quotes of the Week
It used to mean something, but .500 is now mediocrity in today’s NHL. … (.500) doesn’t get you close to the playoffs and we know that. We want to get back there first and start building to six and seven games over .500 for us to get where we need to go. –GM Scott Howson, on the team’s inability to really climb above the .500 mark.
One point that was stressed is there’s no quick fix to the economy. Everyone is concerned, and all will be affected. There was always a theory that sports would be immune to this stuff, and we aren’t seeing that.–Howson, reflecting on the economy as it relates to the NHL’s financial stability.
The people responsible for doing it have to do it. It’s frustrating for everybody to live on this ‘We play so well and scored just one goal.’ –Coach Ken Hitchcock, talking after Sunday’s game about his #1 scoring line.
Words can’t describe it. It’s just such a terrible feeling to lose a game like that. It just keeps happening over and over again. –RJ Umberger, after Sunday’s game in Chicago.
DP is a native north-eastern Ohioan who has been living in Columbus since 1999. DP's main area of concentration here at WFNY is the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team, and you can catch his weekly 5-Hole columns each Tuesday. During the summers, you can also catch up on all the Columbus Clippers news that's fit to print in his Clip Show columns. In his spare time, he works in publishing, plays the drums, and wastes hundreds of dollars on Browns season tickets.