Signed to a 1 year/$1.5 million deal in the off-season, the prodigal first responder, always ready to go in an emergency, returns to the Nashville lineup this year to play a familiar role. Given his history with the coaching staff and some of the skaters, Mase should fit right into the system, and provide invaluable insight to Pekka Rinne.
Suiting up for the Winnipeg Jets last year, having moved north of the border with the team after they ceased to be the Atlanta Thrashers, and after a two-year tour of duty as the Central Division rival St. Louis Blues' number one netminder, Chris Mason saw only 15 starts in 2011-2012 playing back-up to Ondrej Pavelec. Mase won 8 of those decisions, 2 by shutout, posting a 2.59 goals against average and and .898 save percentage; not too shabby for a then-35-year-old back-up keeper.
Some might say the once-unlikely starter has finally fallen back to Earth; after shouldering a huge burden in Nashville as blood clots sidelined Nashville's first true #1 goalie hero, Tomas Vokoun, and after suffering the dubious pleasure of being St. Louis's #1 during a crucial rebuilding phase, Mase's starts and ice time fell by half, and then by another half, in subsequent years. Had the NHL and NHLPA been able to avert a lockout, I might have predicted that Mase would start maybe an eighth of all the games in a season. Pekka Rinne hasn't hit his prime yet (preview here), and is already capable of playing a Brodeur- or Kiprusoff-like season. But since we're going to see an abbreviated, high-intensity season, no thanks to the lockout, and Barry Trotz is focused on making sure players stay fresh (not to mention his incredibly high esteem for the veteran hand), don't be surprised to see Mason between the pipes for more than a dozen or so games -- especially if Pekka really did injure himself.
But aside from that, Mase is one of the best 3rd period bench interviews in the league, and he will no doubt make Mitch Korn's job a little easier:
Exactly how much playing time will Mason see this year? And will he finally get to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup before playing time runs out? (And if -- heaven forbid -- Pekka Rinne gets hit by a bus or something, will fans once again shave their heads in solidarity with Mason?)