The On Deck Circle

Where practice swings don’t exist

The Steve Mason Situation

Posted by Blake Murphy on February 9, 2008

For 16 years I did nothing but hockey things. I drank, ate, played, watched, slept, breathed, and fucked (lie) hockey. I could skate shortly after I could walk, and I could dangle before I was potty trained. I had to take a time out in first grade because at recess my foot hockey skills and already-expert chirping made other kids cry. I could recite statistics like nobody’s business and could probably tell you something about every player in the league. So, it’s safe to say that I knew hockey. And just five years later, I probably still do.

I may not be a huge hockey fan anymore, and I may not be able to tell you who is on my fantasy team, but I’m confident I still know enough about the sport (and hear people bitch about the Leafs enough) to throw down some occasional hockey conversation. So for the good of the site and because I actually find myself missing the Greatest Game on Ice sometimes, and because it’s Hockey Day in Canada, this is the beginning of my attempted forray back into hockey’s shallower waters.

I will not spit hardcore editorials or throw down with Paul-like hockey knowledge, but I do promise to try and keep up with the league enough to balance out some of the writing here at the ODC. The best part of it will be that my allegiance to the Leafs is cooked-spaghetti-weak at best, so my coverage can be impartial and can be of the league as a whole, not Toronto-centric. I can’t promise it will be great writing, but it will be on par with WWE Champion Edge’s NHL playoffs blog from last season.
So where am I going with all of this? Well, this is my third hockey article of all time. Like I said, I may not know as much as I did in the high school days of lore, but I know when a team gets screwed mightily.The team of which I speak is the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League (junior hockey for those not in the know).

With the Memorial Cup in Kitchener this year and the Rangers fielding a pretty solid team (first in the league at the time, by a solid margin), the Rangers’ brass, like any good management team, wanted to ensure they win the CHL championship on home turf. So in early January, looking at their only even remote weakness, goaltending, they made a trade.

It was around this time, too, that Canada was dusting other nations in the World Junior Hockey Championships, the only hockey I consistently watch still (family tradition). Their goaltender, taking the job from LA Kings’ prospect Jonathan Bernier, was Steve Mason, then of the London Knights. Mason ended up winning tournament MVP honors, but had beforehand been considered one of the top goalies in junior, anyways.

So with the Rangers looking to solidify their top spot and shot at the Mem-Cup, and with all of the media attention Mason was getting, the Rangers sold the farm to acquire him. In a three team deal that also involved the Kingston Frontenacs, the Rangers gave up a forward and a defenseman (both seeing regular playing time), and three future draft picks for Mason. Trading picks is a huge gamble by junior hockey standards because players only stay with you for three or four years, tops, before moving on, so a constant influx of talent is a must. Clearly, the Rangers thought Mason was the final piece to their championship puzzle and were willing to roll the dice on that fact.

His numbers since joining the Rangers have been less than stunning, and Kitchener has actually shocked a lot of people by having their new top gun split time with their other goalie, 18 year-old rookie Josh Unice. However, the Rangers still find themselves in first in the OHL and looking pretty stellar, so you can’t question the move.

The move that now appears irrelevant.

Steve Mason was called up to the NHL by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, to see time in lieu of Pascal Leclaire’s neck injury. Mason had been called up twice before but has never played in the NHL. He is expected to start tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Kings in his NHL debut, though the team has not confirmed this. It is a great situation for Mason, to get to play for a team in a playoff race but with low home-town expectations, but this has to suck for the Rangers.

Even though Leclaire is not expected to be out long, the Rangers gave up a boatload to get Mason and are now without him. Sure, Unice is doing alright, but his confidence has to be rocky now when he moves from #1 to 2 and back to 1, with his starting job all but lost whenever Mason is sent back down (junior players can play a certain amount of time in the NHL without losing their junior eligibility). And if Mason were to play well, they may not get him back at all.

So the Rangers gave up three picks and two players and received the following: 5 so-so games from a top-notch goaltender, a starting goalie controversy, a backup’s shaken confidence, and a great deal of uncertainty moving forward. It’s tough to compare to trades like Gasol or Shaq, but it’s safe to say the Rangers are yet to get what they paid for.

One Response to “The Steve Mason Situation”

  1. theondeckcircle Says:

    Posted by Deven Hiscock.

    bravo Blake! i agree Mason has yet to prove his worth with the Rangers…but that is what the Memorial Cup is for! So dont worry when the time to step up occurs the last worry for Ranger fans will be who is net!

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