Welcome to Jackets 20, a series which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Columbus Blue Jackets by profiling 20 of the most important players from the first two decades. Today, we profile former Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason.
With the 69th pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected netminder Steve Mason of the London Knights (OHL).
At the time of the draft, no one really knew just how beneficial Mason would be to the Jackets and their hopes for a playoff appearance.
Rollercoaster Rookie Season
The resolve Mason had during his rookie season was inspiring. To be honest, I’m surprised he didn’t throw his gloves in the air and just quit. For the Jackets’ sake, it’s a good thing Mason pushed through every trial life threw at him.Without his resolve, things would have ended a lot differently for him and the Jackets.
Leading into the 2008-09 season, Mason underwent two knee surgeries in the span of five months. The last one left him out of commission for the first month of the season for the Syracuse Crunch, the Jackets’ affiliate at the time. Not even a month after Mason’s return to the ice, Pascal Leclaire went down with an injury forcing Mason to receive the call up to the Blue Jackets. Within a few games of his arrival, the worries of Jackets’ fans were slowly put to rest as Mason put on a show almost every time he stepped on the ice.
Jackets fans were nothing but proud as Mason racked up shut outs and “NHL Rookie of the Month” awards. Their excitement was electric. Just saying the name Steve or Mason jazzed fans up and gave them new life. Many fans began to feel like the Jackets finally had a chance at being a contender. BUT THEN, in January, Mason’s production began to slow a bit. “Why,” you ask. BECAUSE MASON HAD MONO.
As if it wasn’t stressful enough for a young man to help lead a team towards playoffs while recovering from mono,, Mason had to deal with death threats from opposing fans. During the first intermission of a Jackets vs Flames game in March of 2009, a Flames fan placed several bomb threats directed at Mason because he was upset with how well the goaltender was playing that night.
Don’t worry though. They found the fan thanks to caller id and the fact he didn’t block his number before calling in the threats. And here we all thought Flyers fans were the crazy ones in the league.
At the end of the season, Mason got the last laugh by finishing with a team high 10 shutouts, a Vezina nomination, a Calder Trophy win, and an appearance in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Mason could never recreate the magic of his rookie season. He seemed to stall out a bit as the team around him grew into the talented bunch they are today. The most frustrating part may have been when the Jackets were down you knew whether or not they were going to lose based on the face Mason made after he let a goal in. When Mason’s face dropped and the spark left his eyes, you knew the game was officially over.
Goalie swap with Philly
With Sergei Bobrovsky tearing his way through the league on the way to a vezina trophy, it was clear Mason’s time with the Jackets was coming to a close. Mason’s contract was set to expire in the summer of 2013 and the Jackets needed an inexpensive backup. Instead of letting him walk in the offseason, the Jackets decided to get something while they could.
On April 3rd, 2013, the Jackets traded Mason to the Philadelphia Flyers for Michael Leighton and a 2015 3rd round pick.
Mason’s strong rookie season gave the Blue Jackets a glimpse of what it was like to feel the electricity of playoffs in Columbus. It was a feeling that drove many players to give their all to the team, the fans, and the city.
Also, his solid skills in 2008-09 skyrocketed goaltending expectations from both fans and management. Once they knew what great goaltending looked like, the Jackets never stopped searching for elite goaltending. Decent or average goaltending was no longer good enough for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
On the off ice side of things, his family and friends were constantly in town hitting up the local bars and restaurants. They wanted nothing more than to watch Mason and the town he was playing in succeed. When players and their friends/family members publicly love the city they are playing in, it helps the city become the next cool place to visit or catch a game.
As we all know, you shouldn’t sleep on Columbus or their goalies.