Philadelphia Flyers’ Steve Mason Deserving of Starting Job

Marc DesRoslers- USA TODAY Sports

With another Philadelphia Flyers season just a few weeks away, the team is gearing up for opening night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s apparent that a number of players are sure to be on the ice: Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen to name a few.

One question remains; who will be the starting goaltender?

The Flyers utilized one of their two amnesty buyouts on Ilya Bryzgalov this offseason, nullifying his $5.66 million salary. With Bryzgalov gone, the Flyers signed Ray Emery to a one-year, $1.65 million deal. They had already agreed to terms with former Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason, who inked a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Flyers.

Mason started in six games as a Flyer last season, posting a 4-2 record with a goals against average of 1.9 and a save percentage of .944. Emery posted an incredible 17-1 record with the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks last season as he backed up starting goaltender Corey Crawford. He finished the season with a 1.94 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.

Statistically, Mason and Emery posted almost identical numbers, with a negligible edge going to Mason. All things considered, Emery was backed by a better team than Mason. The Blackhawks emerged as one of the most dominant teams in recent history, and Emery was playing behind a high-powered offense and shut-down defense.

Mason, meanwhile, was playing behind a Flyers team that was eliminated from the playoffs, plagued by injuries and suffering from a leaky defense. Nevertheless, he posted impressive numbers during his short season.

Either candidate would make a fine starter, but Emery has suffered from injuries throughout his career. It is unknown whether or not the 30-year-old goalie can play a full season as a starter. Mason has started for the Blue Jackets in the past, before he lost the gig to former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky. At 25-years old, Mason has yet to show signs of any reoccurring injuries.

Based of his past performances, youth and resiliency, Mason is deserving of the starting spot. Emery has shown that he can excel as a backup, a role that should not be under-appreciated. With any luck, the curse of the goaltending carousel will finally cease once the puck drops on October 2.

Andrew Fitzgerald is a Philadelphia Flyers writer for Follow him on Twitter @awfitz. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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  • iHeartHockey31

    Why do teams need a starter and a backup? Why can’t they have two really goaltenders instead of one great [and overworked] goaltender and one not-so-great goaltender that gets to rot on the bench? The concept of the backup goaltender is archaic & there’s enough great ‘minders out there that teams should be able to utilize & benefit from having two goaltenders actively playing games. If you look at Mason & Emery’s split stats, you’d notice one of the two goalies has a REALLY good SV% against each of the other 24 teams — Mason has historically been really good against mostly eastern conference teams [.922 career SV% before he'd even played for Philly - now a .923 SV%] Emery’s great record from last season only included Western conference teams. [Did you know only 1/3 of the leagues top 30 goal & point scorers are in the Western Conference? -- And 2 of them were ON Emery's team.] Why not take advantage of each of the goaltender’s strengths and weaknesses? If you let one of the goaltenders sit on the bench too long & the other gets hurt, he may not be able to jump right in there if the other goalie gets hurt.
    The last 2 seasons saw the lowest tea GAA go to teams that split the netminding duties. [Ottawa was a close 2nd place last season having split the games with 3 minders]. One of the most interesting aspects about having Mason & Emery as a tandem is having both a left and right glove. If the starting goaltender isn’t ‘announced’ prior to the game [or if the wrong one 'leaked' to the press] it could even throw off the other team’s expectations.
    I think Emery was a nice fit for a tandem with Mason because of how the teams they do and don’t do well against complement each other. If you remember before signing Emery, the Flyers were rumored to be looking into Jonathan Bernier. HIs stats vs eastern conference teams .883 SV% 3.26 GAA. [Wait till Toronto checks his splits vs teams for those 4 point divisional rivals & likely first few playoff rounds -- won't they be in for a surprise]. The teams he was good against in the West were the same teams Mason played well against. The teams in the East Mason had trouble with, Bernier did as well.
    I think if the coach is able to utilize both netminders to their advantage and keeps them busy, there’s a lot of advantages to having two great goaltenders instead of taking up roster space with a guy to open the door for players. As long as they can put their egos aside for the good of the team & still challenge each other in a friendly way [and no one has to look behind them when walking down the stairs] it’s a really good situation.] And how awesome would it be if ‘Sugar Ray’ were able to give the 6’4″ 220LB Mason some boxing lessons? When was the last time a Flyer ‘Minder dropped their gloves [and blocker] for a good old fashion goalie fight?
    PS: If you look at Mason’s career splits — I don’t think he was a bad goaltender. He just seemed to be in the wrong conference — all the teams he plays well against were in the East.