If this is goodbye, thank you Steve Mason
Sometimes, the business part of hockey just sucks. Steve Mason is one of the best goaltenders to ever represent the Philadelphia Flyers’ organization and one of the most down to earth individuals in hockey. Mason coming to Philly was a feel-good story, as the once promising young netminder revived his Calder trophy career for a team who desperately needed a goaltender. Mason came into Philadelphia and wasn’t just good, he was superb. In fact, his 18-18-11 record in 2014-2015 was likely the only reason he wasn’t considered for the Vezina trophy.
The 2016-2017 trade deadline came with expectations of selling, especially one of their underperforming goaltenders. Instead, they kept both, and signed the far worse option to a two-year contract extension. It remains to be seen if there is a deal with Las Vegas for Neuvirth, but until then, I’ll assume Neuvirth will support Stolarz for the next two seasons. It seems as though Mason wants stability in a contract, and I don’t blame the Flyers for not wanting to commit to a goaltender for that long and for that much money with better options coming in the pipeline.
Still, it feels like an injustice to the man who just broke 3rd all-time in wins by a Flyers’ goaltender. Without Mason, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which we made the playoffs in any of his seasons here. He had his rough patches, but so have Rask, Lundqvist or any goaltender in the NHL. In recent interviews, Mason hasn’t expressed much confidence that his career in Philadelphia will have a happy ending. Mason has been known to be outspoken about his teams’ effort level and consistency, and according to Tim Panaccio, “That Doesn’t sit well with a number of players in the locker room.” If I could have a list of names, I’d start putting them on the trade block immediately.
To suggest that a team who made the playoffs the previous year, and arguably improved their roster in the offseason, were so inconsistent and effortless in some stretches that we turned a 10-game winning streak into a losing season is dissapointing. And to suggest that a select few players in the locker room would have any sort of objection to criticism is infuriating. Steve Mason has taken criticism since his rookie season, and so much so that he came close to ending his career in Columbus. Mason had every right to open his mouth about the team’s insconsistency, and fans would expect a locker room to be fired up after such an occurrence, but time and time again, the Flyers have failed to answer the bell.
If this is Steve Mason’s last few games in Philadelphia, then I hope him the best in his future. But more than anything, I’d like to thank him for everything he has done for the city. Thank you for the playoffs, thank you for endless “right-handed robberies,” and thank you, Steve, for being money.