Chris Mason is an accidental journeyman. He has not been bumped from team to team because of a lack of ability. He's a workhorse with a strong locker room presence and the stats on the ice to back it up. Mason gives the Thrashers a sizable upgrade in goal for just a smidge more. For only a hundred thousand dollars more than Moose, we get a guy who played 28 games straight to get the Blues into the playoffs for the first time since the lockout. We get someone who won thirty games last season. And we get someone, as Game Time commenter BreiBird said, " he is one of those guys that you could tell was loved by his teammates as well as the fans."
Chris Mason was more than a fan favorite in St. Louis - he was a sensation. The Blues got a great upgrade in Halak, but they lost one of the most solid and consistent players in the game to make room.
Drafted in the fifth round by the New Jersey Devils in 1995, Chris Mason didn't make his debut in the NHL until 1998, playing just three games with the Preds that year. Those three games - that brief season - marks the only time that his GAA went below 2.90.When playing more than 40 games, he's only had one losing season - 2007-2008, his last in Nashville. Recent Tampa Bay Lightning acquisition Dan Ellis usurped Mason's place as starter after that season. The next season the favor would be repaid to Ellis in the form of Pekka Rinne doing the same to him. And Mason? He got a chance for redemption himself with St. Louis.
Manny Legace did not have a pleasant season in 2008-2009. First came stumbling over a carpet laid out for former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and blowing out his knee. Then came the insecurity over the Blues' signing of Mason. Mason was signed for starter salary - $3,000,000. Legace knew that Mason was a former number one, and his situation as a former backup turned number one out of necessity gave Legace a complex. After having one too many "we gotta call Mrs. Legace and tell her to hide the knives" press conferences, the Blues sent him to Peoria and gave Chris Mason the reins. Mason started every game for the last two and a half months of the season - thirty three games in a row - and proved that he was a reliable backup.
For a team that failed to make the playoffs last season (in the West, 90 points wasn't good enough), Chris Mason put together solid stats. He went 30-22-8 with two shutouts in 61 games played. His season was not as solid as the season previous to that (one can only look at his stats to see a slight slip), though there were some factors that added to the Blues' problems on the ice. Production from the team was down, especially from forwards David Backes and Brad Boyes. Andy Murray'd lost the team and his coaching strategy was no longer working - the team would not put in a full 60 minutes a night. Mason would, though, and there were quite a few games that the Blues should have lost where he was the deciding factor.
What should Thrashers fans expect? From Twitter user @_JoeB comes this fair assessment: "He was spectacular at times, solid at others and occasionally awful. If desire equaled talent, he'd be awesome." There were a couple of cringe-worthy games, most notably against Colorado (where he was pulled in one, but that was one of two games that season where he was pulled), who were a thorn in the Blues' side all season - the season sweep of the Blues probably kept them out of the playoffs. But when you hear "occasionally awful," that amounts to about two to three games a season out of 50-60 games played. He is going to give Pavelec a run for the starter position by just getting in the goal, getting on a streak, and then not giving up. You don't switch back and forth between goalies when Mason's on your team. You don't have to. He will do everything the coaching staff asks him to, and more, to make sure that he puts forth the best effort he can on a nightly basis. There will be some griping about his one soft goal a game - he does allow some - but that griping'll be silenced by the outstanding save he'll make two seconds later. If Mason's game has a weak point, it's that his lateral movement sometimes is a little sluggish if he's caught off guard.
Mason will be missed in St. Louis, especially by the crew at St. Louis Game Time, who came up with this shirt as the winner of their t-shirt contest. I'm sure that they'll be going on clearance soon... I suggest some purchases need to be made by Thrashers fans (note - colors can be adjusted from Blues colors to Thrashers colors).
If I don't see at least one "Fear the Beard" shirt at every game, I will be disappointed.