On the first day of free agency this summer, the Winnipeg Jets signed Steve Mason a two-year deal. With young goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stumbling last season, management is clearly hedging their bets. Steve Mason will help the Winnipeg Jets until Hellebuyck is ready.
Steve Mason Is a Good Bet for the Winnipeg Jets
Rookie of the Year
Anyone who is familiar with the career of Steve Mason knows that he burst into the NHL as a 20-year-old straight out of junior. Breaking into the NHL that young is hard enough, but as a goalie, it’s downright remarkable. In Mason’s case, he not only did that, he was a bona fide starting NHL goalie for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Mason played 61 games, winning 33 while sporting a sparkling 2.29 goals-against average and a 0.916 save percentage. It’s little wonder he earned himself a Calder trophy as Rookie of the Year in the best hockey league in the world. Over the last 10 NHL seasons, Steve Mason is the only goalie to win the award.
It’s not like Mason came out of nowhere. In 2006-07 he was OHL Goaltender of the Year. In 2008 he won gold for Team Canada at the World Juniors and was chosen as the Tournament MVP and Best Goaltender.
Following his incredible NHL rookie campaign, however, things went south for Mason. After four seasons of misery for both Mason and the Jackets, it looked like his career might be over. Perhaps it was a result of having such great success too early. Whatever it was, Mason’s confidence was shattered.
Traded to the Flyers
In April of 2013, Mason was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Michael Leighton and a 2015 third round pick. The move clearly reinvigorated the goalie as he quickly took over the starting job in Philadelphia. Over the next four seasons Mason performed quite admirably overall, although he struggled to find consistency. On the surface, his statistics appeared to show that he was about average as an NHL goaltender.
If we delve deeper into it, we can see that Mason wasn’t all that average after all. At even strength (5v5) play, only six NHL goalies that played over 150 games had a 5v5 save percentage above 0.930. The list of goalies that did that were Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Craig Anderson, Tuukka Rask, and yes, Steve Mason. The Flyers were also consistently one of the NHL’s highest penalized teams during Mason’s time in Philly.
There are other analytics that are useful to look at to learn more about how good a goalie is actually performing. One of those stats is GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average). GSAA shows how many goals a goalie has saved in comparison to league average relative to the number of shots they have faced. In 2014-15 Mason was the fourth best in GSAA behind Carey Price, Devan Dubnyk, and Cory Schneider.
Another new way to look at goalie performance is Adjusted Goals Saved Above Expected Goals Average. It’s a complicated formula but according to Ian Fleming of Dispelling Voodoo, it’s essentially “how well does a goaltender both save shots on goal and influence shooters to miss wide if he faces league-average shot quality.” From 2013-2016, Steve Mason was third in the NHL behind Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist on this measure.
Paul Maurice and Bad Goaltending
Other than a few outlier seasons, Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice has had consistently bad goaltending over his 19-year career. The average save percentage of all goalies over the Jets bench boss is 0.904. Steve Mason’s over the last four seasons: 0.918.
Paul Maurice would likely agree, Steve Mason is a good short-term bet for the Winnipeg Jets while Connor Hellebuyck continues to develop.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images