There's no doubt about it folks.. the Blue Jackets are the absolute worst franchise in the NHL. With the loss of Rick Nash (their only star ever) the franchise took another punch to the gut. They did get three talented young players in return, but it's the ticket sales that count in this game (re: who the hell wants to come see Dubinsky and Anisimov play). Anyhow, I digress.
Steve Mason had a Calder Trophy winning rookie season. The Blue Jackets made the playoffs (but were swept, oh well)! Things looked up! 3 years later and Mason has since posted a gaa (goals against average) of 3.00+ and a sv% (save percentage) hovering right around the 90% mark in 158 appearances. Ab..solutely.. ROTTEN. The good news is he comes at just a $2.9mil cap-hit, and at 24 there is still time for Steve to work out the kinks of the NHL game (but SOON STEVE, PLEASE SOON!).
Howson is starting to doubt the young Ontarian, no question about that: enter Sergei Bobrovsky stage right. Aside from being Jay Onrait's favourite name to announce on TSN's Sportcentre, Bobrovsky had an unbelievable rookie campaign. Just as Mason had, Sergei came in and dazzled the Philadelphia brass to the tune of a 2.59gaa out-dueling playoff hero Mike Leighton for the starting role. Howson was quick to snap at a deal which sent a few picks to the Flyers for the 23-year-old Russian. Bob appears ready to at the very least put up a good fight for the majority of the starts.
Unlike with their defense-core the Jackets haven't signed a whole lot of goaltenders: just four actually (as opposed to 15 defensemen being under contract). The only one of those four you can call a prospect is Allen York. The first professional season of York's career was all over the map. In the ECHL with the Chicago Express he was brutal in 11 appearances (3.28gaa, 89.2 Sv%), and he was worse in Springfield for 5 AHL games (3.94gaa, 87.1 sv%). Basic laws of nature dictate his 11 NHL games would have been atrocious: they were anything but. The Westaskiwin, Alberta native threw together 3 wins and 2 losses with a 92 sv% and a 2.30gaa! Sayyyy Whaaat!? A Jackets tendy with a winning record? Impossible. Although his resume is limited he might just have it in him to force Howson's hand to move one of the guys in front of him.
The fourth and largely forgettable piece of Columbus' goaltending puzzle is Curtis McElhinney. At 29, McElhinney has established he's either a career back-up or a high-end AHL goalie (where his career numbers include a 2.39gaa through 156 games, not half bad). He figures to be a minor contributor, but hey speaking of AHLers Columbus rode Curtis Sanford for 36 games last year. McElhinney probably has a shot.
Howson has assembled 3 'potential' starting calibre goaltenders and 1 veteran who probably wants the job worse than the rest. You have to figure 1 of Mason, Bob or York will emerge as a legitimate starter this season, at least that's what Howson is figuring. Hope alone doesn't save the Blue Jackets organization from a few blockers to the mouth. The uncertainty of how this foursome will perform gives the goaltending situation a bleak outlook.
I give Columbus 2 right hooks and an upper cut to the jaw. What does that equal you say? Well I don't even know, but it isn't good.
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