Garon's wild ride

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

He was the Edmonton Oilers starting goaltender a year ago, winning the job on the heels of an impressive run in the 2007-08 season.

However, things did not go as scripted for Mathieu Garon, who quickly found himself the odd-man out in three goaltender system, and was eventually traded away.

It turned out to be the best move for the native of Chandler, Que. While the Oilers were mulling over how they missed the playoffs for the third straight season, Garon was winning a Stanley Cup with the Penguins as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup.

"At the time, I was a little frustrated to get traded, but it turned out to be really good," said Garon, back in Edmonton yesterday as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who he joined in the off-season. "It was a great opportunity for me to see playoff action and to win the Cup at the end.

"To me it didn't make a difference if I was playing or not. Just being part of it and getting a chance to win it was always a childhood dream, and I wouldn't mind doing it again as a backup. It's obviously a great feeling and as long as your name is on the Cup, it doesn't matter how it got there."

Garon, 31, expects to get his Stanley Cup ring when the Blue Jackets host the Penguins at the end of the month.

Last night, he got the start in goal against his former club.

"It's another game for me, but playing against your old team it's always a bigger challenge," Garon said at the morning skate. "But at the same time, I don't want to change anything. I know it's going to be hard to play against an old team -- the Oilers are playing really good right now.

"We know it's not going to be easy, but we're really confident going into the game."

Things deteriorated quickly for Garon in his time with the Oilers. Originally signed to back up then-starter Dwayne Roloson, Garon went on to earn the top job with a number of outstanding performances during the 2007-2008 season.

The following year, he went into training camp as the Oilers starter, with Roloson in as the backup and Jeff Deslauriers the heir apparent.

It was Garon's job to lose, which he did, stumbling out of the block, allowing Roloson to regain the top position. With Deslauriers waiting in the wings, Garon was squeezed out and traded to the Pens in January for Ryan Stone.

"I don't really want to think about it," Garon said. "It's in the past and, as it turned out, I was happy to get traded, I went on to win the Stanley Cup."

Having served his purpose in Pittsburgh, Garon signed a two-year deal with the Blue Jackets this summer.

Heading into last night's game, Garon had just one start for the Blue Jackets, shutting out the Phoenix Coyotes 10 days ago.

"I'm looking at (Garon) playing 20 games minimum this year for us," said Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock. "I think with the travel, you're going to need a backup that can play 20-plus games for you. There are back-to-back games, you're playing three games in four nights, you're coming back out of different times zones back to the East -- it's really difficult travel."

Playing behind the franchise goaltender in Mason, who won the Calder trophy as the league's best rookie last season, Garon has accepted his mentorship role. It's a role he filled so well in with the Penguins and one the Blue Jackets hope benefits the club long after he's gone.

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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