Saturday, August 2, 2014

Chris Mason Autographed Card

Chris Mason was a very good, trivia-worthy goalie for a long time who just was five years too late or too early to be an NHL star. Arriving with the Nashville Predators at the tail end of 1998-99 (after having been drafted by the New Jersey Devils and signed as a free agent by the Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim but never playing for either team, nor for the Florida Panthers, who also owned his rights for a few months), he didn't get a full season in until 2003-04, at which time he became All-Star Tomas Vokoun's backup, appearing in 17 games (2.18 GAA, .926 save percentage, one shutout and a .500 win-loss record).

He would spend the locked-out 2004-05 season in Norway (for Vålerenga Ishockey), helping his team to the regular-season and playoff championships, and being widely regarded as the best goalie ever to suit up in the league.

The following NHL seasons saw him take on more and more responsibilities with the Predators, going from 23 games in 2005-06 (12-5-0 record, 2 shutouts, 2.54 GAA and .913 save percentage), 40 in 2006-07 (24-11-0, 5 shutouts, 2.38 and .925) and 51 games in 2007-08 (18-22-6, 4 shutouts, 2.90 and .898 on a decidedly weaker team).

He was then sent to the St. Louis Blues for a fourth-round draft pick, and he did have a couple of good seasons there, setting back-to-back career-highs for games played with 57 in 2008-09 (27-21-7, 6 shutouts - also a career-high - 2.41 and .916) and 61 in 2008-09 (30-22-8, 2 shutouts, 2.53 and .913).

He then signed as a free agent with the lowly and struggling Atlanta Thrashers, playing 33 games in their final year of existence (13-13-3, 1 shutout, 3.39 and .892), then finishing his contract with the Winnipeg Jets in 2011-12, posting the better goaltending record on the team with 20 games played, a 8-7-1 record, 2 shutouts, a 2.59 GAA and .898 save percentage.

Only the Preds were willing to offer him a contract after that, so when NHL play resumed after the lock-out, he had his third stint with the team, but a sub-par season led him to sign in Italy last season, and he'll be playing in Germany this coming season.

Internationally, Team Canada has required his services four times at the World Championships, where he has won gold (2007) and silver (2009) and has a 7-4-0 record in 11 games with a 2.06 GAA facing the world's best players who aren't involved past the first round of the NHL playoffs.

The reason why I mentioned he just may have come at the wrong time is that Nashville always seemed to have an All-Star goalie playing at the same time as he did, but he always could compete at the same level. He was also the better goalie in St. Louis and Atlanta/Winnipeg, but none of those teams could even hope to make a dent in history, the standings, or the playoffs. And nowadays, it seems there are a bunch of goalies, just behind the trifecta of leaders comprised of Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick, who are in their mid-20s, show a ton of promise, but have yet to win anything on their own (though a case could be made for Jaroslav Halak).

Meaning a 26-year-rold Mason would likely be given the same chances Carey Price, Ondrej Pavelec, Braden Holtby, and Antti Niemi are, whereas a 38-year-old Mason has to play in Europe.

I met Mr. Mason when he was playing for the Jets, after a game in which he relieved Pavelec in a 7-3 defeat; it is then that he signed this 2007-08 SP Authentic card (#86 in the set) by Upper Deck, showing him wearing the Predators' white (away) uniform, which he signed in blue sharpie:
I love his signature. It's either a weapon Aquaman would use, or a bow and arrow, or he thinks he's Bill Durnan. Unlike the Hall Of Fame goalie, Mason has been credited with an NHL goal; he and Damian Rhodes are the only two goalies to have scored both in the NHL and AHL.

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