Who will back-up Mason?
It's no secret that Wade Dubielewicz didn't work out as planned in Columbus. He was acquired off of waivers from the New York Islanders after returning from Russia and signing a one-year deal with New York.
The goalie situation in Columbus brought no shortage of headlines to the Blue Jackets this season from Pascal Leclaire being injured, again, to Freddy Norrena being released and off to Russia, to Steve Mason, the likely rookie of the year. Oh, and the Blue Jackets highly respected goalie coach Clint Malarchuk accidentally shooting himself.
Perry Elderbroom was brought in, largely because of his close working relationship with Norrena, but with Norrena gone, Mason was left without a strong bond to his goalie coach.
Cue Dubielewicz, who was brought in as much for his positive attitude and to mentor Mason as he was hoped to provide relief for Mason. But that didn't work out as planned. His on-ice performance didn't give the coaching staff enough trust to put him out there when the game was on the line. And how can you blame them? The Blue Jackets didn't clinch a playoff spot until nearly the end of the season. Every point mattered, and Steve Mason gave the team the best chance to win. But for a goalie who suffered mono this season, it's astounding to think he only had a handful of games off from the time he took over the job in November.
Dubielewicz was a great addition to the locker room, he meshed well and cared about his teammates. It's no slight against him, but he just didn't provide what the Jackets needed on the ice.
The Blue Jackets should have no problem taking care of the coaching situation this off-season. It's unknown if Malarchuk will be a candidate to return, but they could also bring in someone who Mason has worked with in the past, junior coach Dave Rook.
All that aside, the question becomes, who will back-up Mason next year?
If Dubielewicz ends up being the back-up next year, you'll probably see the team try to play Mason for 75 of the 82 games.
Here's a look at some of the key free agent goalies this summer:
Nikolai Khabibullin, Manny Fernandez, Martin Gerber, Martin Biron, Antero Niittymaki, Jason LaBarbera, Brent Johnson, Ty Conklin, Kevin Weekes, Brian Boucher, Curtis Sanford, Craig Anderson, and Scott Clemmensen.
A full list of free agent goalies can be found here.
To me, the favorites would have to be Craig Anderson and Scott Clemmensen. Both solid goalies who didn't make a ton of money last year.
Clemmensen was as vital to the New Jersey Devils success this year as Zach Parise, keeping the team in contention while one of the best goalies of all time, Martin Brodeur, was injured.
And Craig Anderson, who battled back and forth with Tomas Vokoun for the #1 goalie position in Florida, and was part of the reason they were in contention for a playoff spot.
The question is, would either goalie want to come to Columbus and be in a situation where they know they don't have a realistic chance to win the starting job? They could have a better chance truly making a name for themselves if they went to a team like Colorado or Toronto and really had a chance to shine.
If you can't get the ideal candidate, you'd have to look at an option like Sanford, Conklin, or LaBarbera. Whatever we do, we have to get someone capable of playing a good amount of games and being able to gain the trust of his teammates and coaches.