Should Steve Mason Be A Vezina Finalist?

Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

From 2010 through 2013, an article called ‘Should Steve Mason Be A Vezina Finalist?’ would have been nothing more than a bad parody or a one word article (No). Amazing how much difference a couple of years can make. It is now 2015, and Steve Mason has been the best player on the Flyers this season. Not Claude Giroux, not Jakub Voracek, but Steve Mason. As improbable as that seemed when he was acquired two years ago, it is true. In his second full season as a Flyer, Mason is on his way to an all-time franchise record with a save percentage just shy of .929. Despite some injuries and mishandling, Mason kept this Flyers team in playoff contention right up until the last few weeks of the season.

Is that going to be enough to get him on the ballot as a Carey Price Trophy  Vezina Trophy finalist, though? We all know that the award is going to Carey Price this season. That’s about as certain as Andrew MacDonald failing to defend the blue line. Alongside Mason, Devan Dubnyk, Pekka Rinne, Tukkaa Rask, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider and Corey Crawford will all receive consideration for the remaining two spots as finalists. Despite playing behind a fairly poor team, does Mason have enough on his resume to set him apart from the rest of those candidates? Let’s take a look.

SAVE PERCENTAGE

Stats from War-On-Ice.com

Stats from War-On-Ice.com

Mason sits solidly in third in terms of save percentage. Adjusted save percentage numbers are also worth consideration. To determine adjusted Sv%, shots are broken down into low, medium and high danger categories that are weighted against league averages to yield a slightly different number. In terms of Adjusted Sv%, Mason still sits in a tie for third with Cory Schneider, with a slightly wider gap between him and some of the other contenders. Although there hasn’t been any proof that goaltenders struggle more when facing higher shot volumes, Mason does lead all candidates in SA/60 as well.

Based on these individual stats, Mason looks like a good choice to be a finalist along with Dubnyk and Price. Let’s take a look at goaltending stats that have team components to see how Mason’s resume holds up.

TEAM GOALTENDING STATS

Stats from ESPN.com

Stats from ESPN.com

(These stats are listed as team statistics because they depend heavily upon the play of the team in front of them.)

Welp, here is where Mason takes a hit. The top 4 goaltenders on this list all have at least twice as many wins as Mason, judging by both raw win totals and by non-shootout wins. Mason played less games than anyone on this list, and it is clear that his team did not play well in front of him during many of those games. The result is a .928 goaltender with an 18 win season. Fun! It definitely doesn’t help his case.

That said, Mason is still 4th on this list in terms of Goals Against Average. While all of these stats are influenced by team play, I consider GAA to be a much more goaltender-driven stat than wins. To post a top 5 GAA in front of this Flyers team is impressive.

Still, it is tough to ignore the monstrous gap that exists in the win column between Mason and some of the other candidates.

WHAT I THINK SHOULD HAPPEN

Carey Price will be a finalist and will win the award. No explanation needed there.

I think Devan Dubnyk has a pretty clear case to be the runner-up. He is second overall in both Sv% and Adjusted Sv%, and sits just 6 wins behind Price. Since being traded to Minnesota in January, he almost single-handedly let the Wild from a tough position to a playoff berth.

After Dubnyk, Steve Mason deserves to be the third finalist, edging out Pekka Rinne and Cory Schneider  by a remarkably slim margin. Despite the huge differences in wins and team success between Mason and Rinne, save percentage is the most important stat for goaltender evaluation, and Mason holds a solid enough lead over Rinne to give him an edge.

The league created the Jennings Trophy in 1982 so that the Vezina would not always end up with the goaltenders who played behind the best teams. The Vezina should be about individual goaltender performance, and thus save percentage should be a huge part of deciding who wins it. It should not be awarded based solely on save percentage, but save percentage should clearly carry the most weight when selecting finalists.

WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN

I think that both Price and Dubnyk will be finalists for the same reasons listed above.

After that, Pekka Rinne will receive the remaining position as a finalist. I just don’t think that voters will value Sv% enough for it to outweigh the differences in team success between Mason and Rinne. Behind a solid team in Nashville, Rinne’s 41 wins have helped the Preds reach the playoffs with one of the top records in the league. Mason’s stellar play behind a much less talented Flyers team resulted in just 18 wins and no playoff berth in Philadelphia. Voters tend to value team stats and success a lot, and I think that will be enough to give Rinne the nod here.

While awards are cool, they don’t mean all that much at the end of the day. In reality, it’s still difficult to believe that we are having a serious discussion about Steve Mason’s Vezina Trophy odds. When Mason was acquired just over two years ago, we made #Stevezina jokes as we wondered what the hell the Flyers were thinking. Whether he is a finalist or not, the fact that he is in the conversation is a huge win for the Flyers. Mason has defied the odds to get himself to this point, and it has truly been a pleasure to watch.

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