Dave Rook clears pucks while Steve Mason skates behind the net at the Blue Jackets' first day of pre-season practices.
The Columbus Dispatch (well, OK, Aaron Portzline, but he's phrasing it as officially coming from the Dispatch) has reported that Blue Jackets goalie coach Dave Rook has resigned from his position with the team, citing family reasons.
Rook was hired in the summer of 2009, after spending three years as a goaltending consultant for the St. Louis Blues and working with the London Knights of the OHL, where he had been responsible for the development of Steve Mason. Rook replaced Clint Malarchuk, who did not return to the team in the '08-09 season due to personal health issues, and replacing interim coach Perry Edlerbloom. Rook's arrival with the team was expected to help push Mason to the next level of his professional development, but instead the anointed franchise netminder suffered clear regressions over the next two seasons.
Rook's family continued to live in London, while he periodically commuted into Columbus to work with both Mason and Garon, as well as occasional trips out to Springfield.
Perhaps the first major warning signs came in Rook's comments to the Dispatch back in December, where there were a pair of red flags - first, that despite the fact that Mason had been in the midst of a meltdown since late November, Rook was watching the games on TV and then giving Mason post game phone calls (doubtless filled with sweet nothings) rather than working with Mason directly and/or traveling with the team, and second that Rook was willing to toss Mason under the bus in some rather brutal comments to the media.
Rook's contract was up for renewal at the end of the season, and his claims that Mason's struggles were "entirely Steve's own doing" rather than something from coaching (or, say, something that Rook might be able to coach him through) did not sound like the words of someone who was expecting to be back - rather, they sounded like someone who already expects to lose one job, so he's trying to position himself to look good for the next one.
While Mason credits Rook for much of his success in London, perhaps this is another reminder that this is the NHL, not Junior hockey, and a new approach is needed - and sometimes even the best goaltender needs someone else to come in and give him some pointers on how to do things differently. (Want proof? Take a look at Roberto Luongo. The Canucks hired a new goaltending coach, Roland Melanson, and the results were his best GAA as a professional netminder, and his highest save percentage in the regular season since the lockout.)
Hopefully, despite the frustration on both sides, this will be a chance to give both Dave Rook and Steve Mason a clean break and a fresh start - and perhaps Rook can go back to calling Mason after a game with congratulations, rather than criticism.