On Craig Berube and Steve Mason’s Improvement

(Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography)

(Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography)

On Tuesday morning, former Flyers coach Craig Berube gave his first interview since being let go by the club 10 days earlier. One of the more intriguing questions that he answered was in regards to his handling of Steve Mason.

When asked if he had any regrets about the way he handled Mason, Berube told Angelo Cataldi the following:

I didn’t have a problem with the way I handled him. If you look at his numbers, he’s gotten better every year under me, and that’s the whole object here is to get the best performance out of him. His numbers were outstanding this year.

Objectively, Berube is correct here. The best two seasons of Mason’s career came after he was traded to a Flyers team Berube would take over 3 games into the 13-14 campaign.

Just how much of that success can Berube take credit for, though? It is possible that his coaching style, which places a heavy emphasis on responsible team defense, was partially responsible for Steve Mason’s improvement? Was Steve Mason was just facing a higher percentage of lower quality shots under Berube’s watch? Let’s take a look at some numbers.

HIGH DANGER SHOTS

War-On-Ice.com has a great tool that categorizes shots based on high, medium, and low danger locations. High danger shots come from the low and medium slot, directly in front of the net. Were Craig Berube’s Flyers teams more efficient in terms of preventing these shots?

All Data from War-On-Ice.com

All Data from War-On-Ice.com

Based on percentage of total shots faced, Mason actually saw a higher proportion of high danger shots this season than he has for any year since 2008-09. While the Flyers excelled at preventing medium danger shots with Mason in net, they didn’t do much to prevent the highest quality attempts. This suggests that Berube’s defense-first style of coaching probably wasn’t responsible for Mason’s drastic improvement.

SCORING CHANCES AGAINST

Let’s look at the number of scoring chances allowed by the teams that Mason has played on. (2012-13 is omitted, as Mason started just 20 games for two different teams)

Data from war-on-ice.com

Still not seeing anything here to suggest that Berube’s coaching style fostered Mason’s improvement. In fact, the Flyers teams that Mason played on actually both allowed more scoring chances against than any other team that Mason has played on.

MASON’S IMPROVEMENT BY ZONE

Let’s look at Steve Mason’s save percentage across different zones. The chart on the left is Steve Mason’s career before 2013-14. The chart on the right shows Mason over the past two seasons.

Charts from war-on-ice.com

Charts from war-on-ice.com

Mason has improved significantly in terms of both medium and high danger shots over the past two seasons. His improvement appears to be driven by his increasing ability to stop these difficult shots, not by Craig Berube’s emphasis on preventing them.

The takeaway here is that Steve Mason’s improvement does not necessarily mean that Craig Berube coached him and handled him well. It is quite possible that he was handled poorly at times and was still able to improve significantly. Yes, Mason did improve every season under Berube. However, he was certainly still mishandled at times, and Mason’s improved numbers do not absolve Berube of responsibility for that.

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