Philadelphia Flyers 2013-14 Year In Review: Steve Mason

Bruce Bennett

Steve Mason had a strong season for the Flyers, and while one year won't prove the doubters wrong, we're all hopeful for continued strong play in 2014-15 and beyond.

Steve Mason

Age: 26 (May 29, 1988)
Contract Status: $4.1 million per year through 2017

2013-14 Stats

GP SV % ES SV% PK SV% GSAA*
61 .917 .923 .894 5.88
Shots Faced Saves Shutouts W-L Goals Against Average
1751 1606 4 33-18-7 2.50

* Mason's GSAA, or "Goals Saved Above Average", is the difference between the number of goals that Mason gave up and the number of goals that a league-average goalie would have given up in the same number of shots. See here for further explanation and see here for a list of league leaders in the number in 2013-14.

A calming force

Our big fear with Steve Mason prior to this past season was that his 2013 year was a fluke. All you had to do was look at his career numbers with Columbus and worry that he was a below-average-to-awful NHL goalie, and that the seven impressive games he played with the Flyers were not indicative of what to expect going forward.

They were enough to earn him a contract for the 2013-14 season, and he more than lived up to the task. Here's a list of goaltenders who played more than 55 games this season, sorted by save percentage. Mason is not at the top list, or in the top tier of this list, but he's in some decent company.

Rk Player Team GP GA SA Saves Save % GAA SO
1 Tuukka Rask BOS 58 115 1,641 1,526 0.930 2.04 7
2 Carey Price MTL 59 134 1,828 1,694 0.927 2.32 6
3 Semyon Varlamov COL 63 146 2,013 1,867 0.927 2.41 2
4 Ben Bishop TBL 63 133 1,758 1,625 0.924 2.23 5
5 Sergei Bobrovsky CBJ 58 131 1,699 1,568 0.923 2.38 5
6 Jonathan Bernier TOR 55 139 1,788 1,649 0.922 2.70 1
7 Jaroslav Halak STL, WSH 52 110 1,385 1,275 0.921 2.25 5
8 Henrik Lundqvist NYR 63 144 1,810 1,666 0.920 2.36 5
9 Kari Lehtonen DAL 65 153 1,888 1,735 0.919 2.41 5
10 Roberto Luongo VAN, FLA 56 129 1,589 1,460 0.919 2.40 4
11 Ryan Miller BUF, STL 59 154 1,885 1,731 0.918 2.64 1
12 Corey Crawford CHI 59 128 1,533 1,405 0.917 2.26 2
13 Steve Mason Flyers 61 145 1,751 1,606 0.917 2.50 4
14 Marc-Andre Fleury PIT 64 150 1,774 1,624 0.915 2.37 5
15 Mike Smith PHX 62 159 1,871 1,712 0.915 2.64 3
16 Antti Niemi SJS 64 149 1,705 1,556 0.913 2.39 4
17 Craig Anderson OTT 53 150 1,680 1,530 0.911 3.00 4
18 Jonas Hiller ANA 50 120 1,348 1,228 0.911 2.48 5
19 Jimmy Howard DET 51 133 1,482 1,349 0.910 2.66 2
20 Ondrej Pavelec WPG 57 163 1,644 1,481 0.901 3.01 1

Not far behind guys like Kari Lehtonen, Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo. I'll absolutely take that given how badly the Mason experiment could've gone -- frankly, how badly we should've expected the Mason experiment to go given his track record.

Beyond just the numbers, Mason's impact on the postseason was perhaps chance, but certainly felt real. This is no slight to Ray Emery, but there's a common belief that the Flyers could have and perhaps would have advanced out of the first round -- defeating the conference champion Rangers -- had Mason not been injured for the first two games of the playoffs. We will never know for sure, but it speaks to the confidence that everyday fans and the organization have with Mason in the crease. For an entire season, things felt calm with him in net, and that's a luxury we haven't had in this town in a very long time.

Bigger contract, bigger expectations?

Mason was quite good in 2013-14, and it earned him a three-year contract that begins in the upcoming season. He'll get a raise from the $1.5 million against the salary cap to $4.1 million per season for the next three years, and with that raise comes the expectation that he'll at least keep up that .915-.920 save percentage he had in 60 games this season.

Here's that same list of goaltenders we highlighted above, this time focusing on their contracts:

Rk Player Team GP Save % 2014-15 Cap Hit Expires
1 Tuukka Rask BOS 58 0.930 $6.5 million 2020-21
2 Carey Price MTL 59 0.927 $6.5 million 2017-18
3 Semyon Varlamov COL 63 0.927 $5.9 million 2018-19
4 Ben Bishop TBL 63 0.924 $2.3 million 2014-15
5 Sergei Bobrovsky CBJ 58 0.923 $5.625 million 2014-15
6 Jonathan Bernier TOR 55 0.922 $2.9 million 2014-15
7 Jaroslav Halak STL, WSH 52 0.921 $4.5 million 2017-18
8 Henrik Lundqvist NYR 63 0.920 $8.5 million 2020-21
9 Kari Lehtonen DAL 65 0.919 $5.9 million 2017-18
10 Roberto Luongo VAN, FLA 56 0.919 $5.3 million 2021-22
11 Ryan Miller BUF, STL 59 0.918 ?? ??
12 Corey Crawford CHI 59 0.917 $6 million 2019-20
13 Steve Mason Flyers 61 0.917 $4.1 million 2016-17
14 Marc-Andre Fleury PIT 64 0.915 $5 million 2014-15
15 Mike Smith PHX 62 0.915 $5.66 million 2018-19
16 Antti Niemi SJS 64 0.913 $3.8 million 2014-15
17 Craig Anderson OTT 53 0.911 $3.18 million 2014-15
18 Jonas Hiller ANA 50 0.911 $4.5 million 2013-14
19 Jimmy Howard DET 51 0.910 $5.291 million 2018-19
20 Ondrej Pavelec WPG 57 0.901 $3.9 million 2016-17

Mason's new deal pretty much puts him in line with his counterparts, and could actually constitute savings for the Flyers if he's able to continue down this path, or perhaps even continue to improve. We all hope that Mason is simply a late-bloomer, that the trade to Philadelphia was a necessary one that has rejuvinated his career, and that his best hockey is ahead of him. If that's the case, we have reason to be excited, and the Flyers will have a good contract on their hands.

The question, though, is whether he's going to take a step back after what was a very strong 2013-14, and frankly none of us would be surprised if he did. One good season isn't enough to prove the doubters wrong, but it's definitely enough to make us hopeful.

Preseason expectations

Let's check back on our season preview for Steve Mason and see what we thought could happen with him this year.

Best case...

The change of scenery and goalie competition actually does Mason well, the progress we saw at the end of last season marked real improvements after all, and he ends up bouncing back and posting a .915, right around where he was in his rookie year.

Worst case...

With the pressure back on, Mason wilts and does what he did for most of his time in Columbus: play very poorly. He struggles to stay above .900, torpedoing the Flyers' playoff hopes and forcing them to rely on Emery more than they'd like to.

Verdict

You can't look at Steve Mason's 2013-14 season and say he didn't live up to expectations. Or maybe he even exceeded them. His .917 save percentage was a career-best, and he didn't have a single stretch during the season where we all stood up, shook our heads and went "WELP HERE WE GO AGAIN WITH THE GOALIES".

All in all, Mason was a calming force in the Flyers net in his 61 games, and he was more than a strong value on his $1.5 million contract for the year. That changes next year as he embarks on the first season of a three-year, $4.1 million contract, and while Mason has to keep his strong play going for another year or two to convince the doubters, the 2013-14 season was a big one in terms of our confidence in Mason's ability to be a solid starting goaltender for the Flyers now and down the line.

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Steve Mason's season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e. 1 being "he was incredibly disappointing and I want him out now", 10 being "he was outstanding even beyond my craziest expectations".

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