Monday, September 13, 2010

Time to step up: Mathieu Garon

  • Goalie
  • 32 years old, 10th year in National Hockey League
  • $1,200,000 cap hit 
  • 2.0% of Columbus Blue Jackets salary cap
  • Contract expires at end of this season
  • 2009-2010 numbers: 35 games played, 12 wins, 9 losses, 83 goals against, 858 shots against, .903 save percentage, 2.81 goals against average
The Columbus Blue Jackets relied on Mathieu Garon at
clutch moments last season, and he responded under pressure
There is legitimate cause to label Mathieu Garon the Columbus Blue Jackets' 2009-2010 Most Valuable Player.  Think about it, as a backup goaltender, he was pressed into service at the most inconvenient of times.  He then was asked to stop the bleeding on a team that was suffering from one of the more impressive sophomore goalie slumps in recent National Hockey League history.  That "Mr. Wolf" (link is NSFW, FYI) quality to Garon is what makes him so incredibly valuable.

And, for a veteran backup, Garon performed OK.  What more do you want from a backup goalie?  If he meets the following criteria, I suggest that he's a decent role player:
  1. Spell the starting goalie and start a handful of nights - and grab a handful of wins in the process
  2. Come in off the bench for a starting goalie who's not on their game on any given night, perhaps pulling a win or two out of your hat
  3. Provide counsel and support for your starting goalie
  4. Not cost a lot against the salary cap
In my mind, Garon accomplished all of of the above.  In an additional bonus, his signing as a free agent stabilized the backup position after a revolving door that, in 2008-2009, included Freddy Norrena, Dan LaCosta and Wade Dubielewicz. (Oh yeah, Pascal Leclaire, too.) With an unstable lineup like that in goal, it's makes the CBJ playoff run all the more unlikely.  Garon put a stop to all of that, but he sadly didn't get the defensive support that the blueliners provided 08-09's motley crew.

There's an argument to be made that Columbus shouldn't be treating Garon like a backup - that, considering that the (currently unpredictable) Steve Mason is your starter, the Blue Jackets really should have a "1" and "1a" approach to goaltenders.  With the short-lived "win and you're in" approach, the Jackets functionally tried that approach and gave the reins back to Mason.  For better or worse (and what's better and what's worse is a matter of personal opinion), Mason is #1 and Garon is #2.  But make no mistakes, the CBJ starter needs his backup badly.

Garon cleaned up Steve Mason's mess and grabbed a
couple of games for himself in 09-10.  Let's hope he does
less of the latter and more of the former in 10-11.
Seeing how closely the two goalies' fortunes are tied, Mathieu Garon enters the final year of his contract with a couple big questions, neither of which he can control: 1) Will the Steve Mason comeback that started toward the end of last season continue, and 2) Will the CBJ defense come back to anything approaching 2008-2009 form?

But that's the life of the goalie...you don't go out and actually win games.  All you can do is prevent your team from losing games while you wait for the scorers to do their thing.

Thus, the question we are forced to ask is: Is Mathieu Garon ready for anything and everything to happen to him this season?  Because, knowing the Columbus Blue Jackets, anything and everything WILL happen.  Which makes having a seasoned backup goalie like Garon all the more critical.

1 comment:

  1. With the obvious dirth of QUALITY in the system, M. Garon is a valuable resource. He has shone the ability to step in as necessary, and for as long as necessary. M.V.P. Perhaps not, EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, definitely.

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