Steve Mason burst onto the NHL scene last month with a 5-2-1 record, being named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for November.
He also won his first start in December, which he capped off with a diving blocker save against Kyle Wellwood, invoking memories of a young Dominik Hasek.
This kid is the real deal for sure, but his dazzling streak came to an end tonight when he was defeated by the San Jose Sharks in the HP Pavilion 3-2. Now that Mason looks human again, Ken Hitchcock has some decisions to make about his goaltenders.
Earlier in the week, Hitchcock basically said that Mason was the interim number-one goalie for the Blue Jackets due to his stellar play through the month of November, combined with inconsistency from the Jackets' top goalie Pascal Leclaire and backup Fredrik Norrena.
Obviously the Jackets won't be carrying three goaltenders for long, so the question remains: What's next for Steve Mason?
Ken Hitchcock and the Jackets' organization aren't likely to bail on Pascal Leclaire so quickly. He has been poor this year, grabbing only four wins in 10 games while posting a less-than-stellar 87.9 save-percentage and 3.61 GAA. Leclaire had a really solid season last year when healthy, picking up 24 wins and nine shutouts in 54 appearances. He will definitely get a few more chances at the very least to prove his worth to this team.
As unworthy a starting goalie Leclaire has been this season, Norrena has been an even more unworthy backup netminder. He has only one win in eight appearances this season and has posted an ugly 87.2 save-percentage and a 3.16 GAA over that span. Shipping Norrena wouldn't likely be much of a burden to the Blue Jackets, but some other questions remain.
Should Steve Mason stay on with the Jackets in a potential backup role to Pascal Leclaire, or would he be better suited to develop his game in the AHL?
Personally, I believe this kid is ready. He stole the show in November, won his first start in December against a pretty solid Vancouver Canucks team, and could have won tonight in San Jose had it not been for the stellar play of opposing goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov. That's not even mentioning the fluke goal credited to Patrick Marleau, which bounced off a defender's stick and knuckled over Mason's shoulder in the early second period.
Columbus should get rid of Norrena and keep Mason on the roster. He has proven that he is ready for the NHL and if you've seen him, then you know his play just oozes with confidence.
This kid is going to be special. He achieved MVP honors in the 2008 World Juniors for Team Canada and continues to showcase his skills in a starting role.
Like I said earlier, Pascal Leclaire will get his chance to re-solidify his starting job in Columbus, but after the gold we've seen from Mason, expect him to be on a very short leash. Keep an eye on this one, you won't be disappointed.
Some food for thought. Over and out.