Columbus Blue Jackets: 4 Options for Their Goaltending Struggles

Patrick Drottar@pdrottarCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2011

Columbus Blue Jackets: 4 Options for Their Goaltending Struggles

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    This season has not gotten off to the start that the Columbus Blue Jackets were hoping for. After 10 games, the Jackets are a league worst 1-8-1. Columbus has only won two of their last 20 games dating back to last season.

    The expectations were so high for the Blue Jackets in the offseason with the signings of All-Star Jeff Carter and defenseman James Wisniewski.

    However, even with the huge acquisitions, the pressure going into the year still fell on the shoulders of goalie Steve Mason.

    Mason has struggled in the past with inconsistency and has not been able to get back to the form that won him the Calder Trophy in 2009.

    To make matters worse, Columbus' roster has been filled with injuries early on in the season, especially at the goaltending position, which leaves the team no other option but to continually start Mason.

    The team's backup, Mark Dekanich, suffered an ankle injury in the preseason and has yet to play during the season. Curtis Sanford also was bit by the injury bug, forcing the Jackets to call up Allen York to backup Mason until Dekanich is ready to return.

    If the Blue Jackets want to have any chance of reaching the goals they set for themselves in the offseason, they will need to figure out their goaltending issues soon, before its too late and the season is lost.

    Let's take a look at four possible options for the Blue Jackets to fix their issues in net.

Look to Free Agency

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    If the Blue Jackets want to find a solution without spending a lot of money, one option is to go to free agency.

    However, it's slim pickens this season and only a few viable options exist.

    One option is 36-year-old Marty Turco. Turco played last season with the Chicago Blackhawks and was originally set to be the starter until youngster Corey Crawford was ready to make the move to the No. 1 role.

    The 10-year veteran got off to a good start in October, but his numbers slipped afterwards and Chicago decided it was Crawford's time, sending Turco into a mentor role.

    Turco's numbers were not the best last season, but he still has something left in the tank and could help Columbus have two viable options in net.

    In no way am I saying bring Turco in and make him the No. 1 option in net.

    However, with Turco on the roster, coach Scott Arniel could afford to rest Mason and Turco would still give the team a chance to win.

    Due to the injuries suffered by the players behind him, Mason has been forced to start every game this season, which will take a toll on any goaltender.

    Turco is the best available goaltender in free agency and could serve as a mentor and backup for the struggling Mason.

Trade for a No. 1 Option

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    This option is the least likely to happen out of the four, but it is still a considerable one.

    If the Jackets have any plans to make it to the playoffs this season, some drastic changes are going to need to be made and trading for a talented goalie could be one of them.

    In the picture, we see Vancouver Canucks goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. The Canucks have a dilemma on their hands as they have two goaltenders who could be a No. 1 but not enough money to pay the two of them.

    Luongo has a massive contract over 12 years worth $64 million, but lately he has not been playing to his worth. So far this season, Luongo has gone 2-3-1 with a 3.46 goals against average and a save percentage of .868.

    The Vancouver fans are getting fed up with the Canadian's play and rumors are starting to circle that the team is looking to trade him unless his play improves.

    There are not a lot of teams in the NHL that would be willing to take on such a massive contract, unless they were desperate, which Columbus just so happens to be.

    However, Columbus has one of the highest salaries in the league, and in order to bring Luongo on they would have to shed a lot of cap space and key players.

    The other option, and the less likely of the two, is Cory Schneider. The 25-year-old has shown he has the talent to be a No.1 and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

    In the end, the Canucks may look to save some money and re-sign Schneider to be the starter while trying to find a way to shed Luongo's contract.

    If Columbus is truly desperate, then giving Vancouver a call is an option, but they may have to drastically alter the team to do so.

Make Mark Dekanich the Starter When He Returns

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    Going into the preseason, 25-year-old Mark Dekanich had an opportunity to prove to the Blue Jackets' coaching staff that he could be the team's No. 1 option if Steve Mason struggled.

    Dekanich played well last season for the Nashville Predators' AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, and was ready to make the jump to the big leagues.

    However, before the end of the preseason, Dekanich suffered an ankle injury that would sideline him for the beginning of the year. This put the Jackets in a tough situation, as the options behind Dekanich were slim.

    The British Columbia native is slowly healing from his injury and is set to make an AHL conditioning assignment this week before the team activates him.

    When he returns, Steve Mason will get a much-needed rest and the starting position will be Dekanich's spot to lose.

    In the 10 games he has started, Mason has not played well and if Dekanich can string together some victories, he could earn more starts.

    This move, however, is a very risky one, as Dekanich has little NHL experience.

    While with Nashville last season, Dekanich only played in one game, where he played 50 minutes and allowed three goals.

    No one knows what Dekanich will look like once he gets his feet wet, but the Blue Jackets' front office believes he is ready.

    Columbus fans are in for a long and embarrassing season if he isn't.

Stick with Steve Mason

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    Yes, Steve Mason's play so far this season has been nothing to write home about. His 3.33 goals against average has been way below average, but in his defense, he cannot receive all of the blame.

    The Jackets' biggest loss this preseason was power-play quarterback James Wisniewski being dealt an eight-game suspension after he threw an intentional elbow at Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck after the game had ended.

    The suspension forced the Jackets to scramble around to fill their defensive pairings, which meant they had to use youngsters like David Savard and John Moore to fill the voids.

    Players like Grant Clitsome and Fedor Tyutin were forced to step up and play above their game and they struggled to do so, which put pressure on Mason to stand on his head.

    To make matters worse, the Jackets lost two of their puck-stopping defensemen after Radek Martinek suffered a concussion and Marc Methot's thumb "exploded" after blocking a slap shot against the Detroit Red Wings.

    When Wisniewski returned earlier this week, you could tell that the Blue Jackets' defense balanced out and played an extraordinary game against a tough opponent.

    Fans witnessed a vicious power-play attack and the first goal from Moore in the team's only victory this season.

    Mason looked impressive in net, only allowing one goal and shutting down all other Detroit scoring opportunities.

    Mason showed that when the proper pieces are around him, he can succeed.

    Once players like Methot, Jeff Carter and Mark Dekanich return from injury, Mason's play should improve after some much-needed rest.

    Hopefully they return soon for Mason's sake, because he is running out of time.