I periodically download the podcast of Hockeycentral, which is a daily hockey talk show on Fan 590 in Toronto. Now, I usually queue up a playlist of podcasts, plug my iPod into my clock radio, and then drift off to sleep listening to them, which means in any given week I actually listen to about 1/30 of the podcasts I download. Which is to say that I often sleep through my Hockeycentral podcast. But this morning the part of my brain that is on constant alert for the words “Columbus Blue Jackets” was triggered and I woke up in time to hear an interview with Ken Hitchcock, recorded last Friday.
Most of what he had to say wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard him say already about the Detroit series. He did talk pretty openly about how worn out Mason was and admitted that they overplayed him down the stretch. He said they wouldn’t do it again, and it was a priority to make sure that next year they have a backup who can play 15-20 games (Er, guess that’s bye, Dubie…). He said it was tougher for young goalies to play a lot of back to back games than for older goalies like Kiprusoff or Brodeur, and that ideally Mason should only play 60-65 games next season.
I thought it was interesting; I hadn’t seen anything that specific yet from Hitchcock in the local media about how much he saw Mason playing next year (possible he did say something and I missed it).
If you want to hear it yourself, it’s the April 24 Hockeycentral. You can download it from the link above or via iTunes.
I know I harped a lot on Mason being played too much down the stretch — guess I remember how they ruined Marc Denis by playing him 77 times in ’02-03. Not that Mason isn’t more talented than Denis and hopefully more resilient (and not to mention that he plays behind a more helpful defense), but it’s still a matter of some concern. And also just coincidentally, a coworker of mine had mono last fall, shortly before Mason was diagnosed. Although not a professional athlete, my coworker is only a few years older than Mason, but was out of commission for weeks, and not fully himself for a couple months. Obviously, every case is different, but it always seemed somewhat unbelievable that Mason could only miss a week of NHL hockey with mono, play all but three games after his return, and not eventually show some negative effects in his play.
But that all makes it all the more amazing that he was as good as he was down the stretch. Yeah, there was a fall off from before he got sick, but he was still very good. And the world outside of Columbus has taken note of that, as it was announced today that Mason is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Win or lose (and voting was completed before the playoffs, so nothing that happened against Detroit will factor in), just being one of the three finalists as a 20-year-old rookie is quite an honor. Of course, Mason had already been named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which he has a much better chance of winning.
We’ve got a real special player here. Glad to hear they’re looking out for him so he’ll continue to get better and hopefully be a big part of this franchise for many years to come.