Logical destinations for Chris Mason


Mason1.jpgBefore I looked at Chris Mason’s numbers, the plan was to make a joke about how “the only thing that stood out about him was his astounding beard.” After looking over his career stats, though, I now realize that he could be an under-the-radar bargain.

Call me crazy, but Mason has the potential to be the next Craig Anderson. The parallel isn’t perfect, mind you, since Mason received his opportunity to start with the St. Louis Blues while Anderson was only a backup. Yet the most crucial factor – that he is flying under the radar but could end up being an outstanding value – remains the same. (They also both have experience backing up Tomas Vokoun.)

Just look at his career stats; aside from a really rough 2007-08 season (his final campaign with Nashville), Mason has been above average in net. His career save percentage is 91.4 percent, a mark that follows his two years with the Blues (91.3 last year, 91.6 in their 08-09 playoff run). His115-86-28 career record is impressive considering the fact that he played for solid-but-not-spectacular Blues and Predators teams.

Unlike Carey Price (an unproven-at-the-NHL-level player who now might cost Montreal a pretty penny), a Mason signing could be just as positive for his team as it will be for his own career.

After the jump, I’ll take a look at the best (not all, just the best) matches for Mason.

Note: I don’t think Mason’s prospects of landing a big payday are very good, so my main focus is finding matches that would either a) give him a lot of starts, b) allow him a chance to win a Cup or c) both.

San Jose Sharks

Now, this could be a great fit. San Jose could get a solid goalie while paying far less than they paid Evgeni Nabokov in 09-10. I mean, the Sharks aren’t ready to hand the reins to Thomas Greiss, are they?

Philadelphia Flyers

After all, the team is Nashville Predators East anyway, right? Mason-Boucher would be a nice 1a/1b duo that sports writers would love to underestimate. I don’t think Mason should cost much more than Michael Leighton, yet he has a much better track record.

Washington Capitals

I have some serious doubts that any goalie (except, perhaps, Dominik Hasek in his prime?) could look too great in the Caps’ net. That’s not meant as a knock on Washington, it’s just the simple truth that aggressiveness has its defensive drawbacks. Mason can allow Semyon Varlamov to continue his slow maturation into a possible goalie of the future while giving the team an affordable, steady veteran.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning are far from contenders, but new GM Steve Yzerman brings some needed credibility. It doesn’t hurt that the team features big names and a decent backup in Mike Smith (so Mason doesn’t need to go over 50-60 starts).

Other less promising options: Atlanta (bad team, decent job security), Columbus, Dallas (committed to Kari Lehtonen), Ottawa (Pascal Leclaire is pricey, though) and dare I say … Chicago?

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.