The Vicky Files: Chris Mason is bad
David Hasselhoff is not doing well these days. The media can't seem to get enough of his messy divorce proceedings, questionable parenting tactics and ongoing battles with alcoholism. After being kicked off a plane for being too drunk and enduring unpleasant video-taped exposure at the hands of his own teenage daughter, public opinion of the "Hoff" is at a wretched low. Even his performance on "America's Got Talent" was cringingly awkward and unfunny at best. It's hard to believe this is the same guy we adored as the star of both "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch". What a difference a few years can make.
Somewhat similarly, Nashville's Chris Mason is struggling as well, especially in contrast to 2006-07's stellar performance. Admittedly, there's no comparing Mason's on-ice issues with Hasselhoff's severe life problems; the Predator goaltender is simply not playing well. But this analogy serves to show that yesterday's media or fantasy sports darling can easily be today's pariah.
Hi Vicky. What should I do about Chris Mason? I'm near the top of my standard league, but he's really killing my otherwise great goaltending. Along with Mason I have Roberto Luongo, Chris Osgood and Tim Thomas. I'm okay in most categories but near the bottom of my league in goals. With guys like David Legwand, Jamie Langenbrunner, Nikolai Zherdev, Shawn Horcoff and Christopher Higgins sitting in the free agent pool, should I drop Mason and pick up one of them? Thanks in advance!
Dave from Southern California
Chris Mason just doesn't look comfortable out there. With only seven wins in 20 games, a 3.15 goals against average and a .891 save percentage, he's one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL. His save percentage sits 37th and his goals against average ranks 40th. These numbers are a complete turnaround from his 40-game performance in 2006-07, filling in for an injured Tomas Vokoun. And unfortunately, there's no clear solution in sight. Following a horrible start, Mason hit a decent patch in early-November before stumbling again in the past three weeks. He's been yanked four times already and his confidence is toast. You can't blame Nashville's defense either. Mason actually plays better when he faces more shots; all but one of his wins involved 30 or more from the opposition. What's the solution here? Allow the other team more chances on net? Hardly. Mason's situation looks bleak indeed.
So, usually not one to condone the outright release of a starting goaltender, I'm willing to make an exception in this case. First, peruse your league and zone in on someone in dire straights between the pipes. Offer Chris Mason for a top goal-scorer straight-up and see what happens. He/she may go for it out of sheer desperation. If that doesn't work, just let Mason loose and pick up one of the aforementioned players. I prefer Nikolai Zherdev or Christopher Higgins. Zherdev is tearing it up in Columbus with 10 points in his past 10 games, including five goals. Higgins has rediscovered his scoring touch after a mildly dismal November with five points in his past three games. And overall, his goals outweigh his assists 12 to eight.
Keep an eye on your other netminders as well. Although Tim Thomas is only slightly hurt at the moment (he shouldn't miss much more than a week), I simply don't trust him for the long haul. That guy can collapse at any moment, so be attentive. Once the faltering starts, start trade-talk with league-mates before he completely implodes.
Hi Victoria. I'm in a points-only pool and goalies get two for a win and three more for a shutout. I traded Jonathan Cheechoo, Vaclav Prospal, Marty Turco for Jaromir Jagr. I now can grab either Johan Holmqvist, Vesa Toskala or Chris Mason off the free agency list. How did I do? I figure Jagr is a huge upgrade over Prospal, and Holmqvist (or Toskala) will not be far off in terms of wins from Turco.
AM78 from Vancouver, BC
I'm sorry to say you overpaid here. Giving up Jonathan Cheechoo and Marty Turco for Jaromir Jagr is one thing, losing Vaclav Prospal is another. Prospal is third in scoring on an offensively-potent Tampa Bay team with 27 points in 28 games. Although undeniable gifted, Jagr has only 21 points and the Rangers are dead last in scoring with 2.17 goals per game. But, what's done is done.
On the upside, with Mike Smith starting fairly regularly, the loss of Turco is negligible and your goaltending options are promising. As for all the reasons listed above, forget about Chris Mason entirely and focus on either Johan Holmqvist or Vesa Toskala. Holmqvist is riding a three-game win streak, allowing only five goals altogether. Toskala has allowed only seven goals in his past four consecutive victories. Both own the No. 1 designation with their respective teams, regardless of the Maple Leafs' insistence to the contrary. As if they're going to sit one of the hottest 'tenders in the league for Andrew Raycroft. Uh huh.
Altogether, it's almost a coin toss. Defensively, Tampa Bay is slightly superior to Toronto, but Toskala is the better individual talent. I give the slight edge to Toskala, since he already has a shutout this season, and Holmqvist does not. But you'll do well with either.
I am fourth in my league with a strong offense that includes Marian Hossa, Michael Nylander, Paul Kariya, Rob Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney, Martin St. Louis, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, Sean Avery, Martin Erat, David Legwand and Slava Kozlov. But I'm weak in net with Chris Mason, Vesa Toskala, and Martin Gerber. I was offered a trade for Brind'Amour, Kariya and Toskala for Jason Arnott and J.S. Giguere about a month ago, but didn't take it. I'm wondering what I could give up to get a good goalie as my league counts wins, saves and goals against.
Colin from Edmonton, AB
Your two most expendable players are Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Martin Havlat. Bouchard's production has waned significantly since the healthy returns of Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra. As trade fodder, even with zero points in his past seven games, Bouchard's overall numbers are still attractive enough and he holds extra value as a winger. At the other end of the spectrum, Havlat has five points in five games since coming back from injury but there's a good chance he won't stay healthy for long. His history of getting hurt is far too colorful. Target a leaguemate with goaltending depth and offer up Bouchard and Havlat for a starter. If that doesn't work, throw Chris Mason into the mix, since you would be dropping him once another netminder joins your team anyway.
I'm repeating myself here, but the good news is, Vesa Toskala is Toronto's No. 1 and he's playing exceptionally well. And Martin Gerber will still get his opportunities often enough in Ottawa, even though Ray Emery has emerged as the everyday guy (for now). Once another solid starter joins your squad, you'll be in good shape.
Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can send her Email for potential use in "The Vicky Files" by clicking here.