Help us, Mason Raymond, you’re our only hope

Last season, Mason Raymond wasn’t even on the second line. Now he’s the only one left on it. The stone the builder’s rejected has become the cornerstone, in other words, and people are straight-up concerned. Nay, they’re worried. Perhaps even noivous.

With Ryan Kesler still recovering from all the surgeries, the second line to start the season was meant to be one of Jordan Schroeder or Andrew Ebbett between Raymond and David Booth. In many ways, Raymond was only on the second line by default, as Vigneault appeared to want Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen on the third line. Now, by default, he’ll be the one on that line with the most NHL experience.

He lost a lot of fans with his lacklustre performance over the last couple seasons, but now everybody loves Raymond (because there is no one else to love).

The most consistent trio on the second line last season consisted of Booth, Kesler, and Higgins. The AmEx line scored 56 of the Canucks’ 241 goals despite not playing in a combined 42 of the Canucks’ games. Raymond, playing in just 55 games after literally having his back broken at the end of the previous year’s playoffs, scored 10 goals and added 10 assists while playing mostly third line minutes.

The year before that is what fans are more concerned about, as he didn’t have such a devastating injury to blame. Raymond’s break out season came in 2009-10, when he scored 25 goals and 28 assists. In 2010-11, he dropped to 15 goals and 24 assists, albeit in 12 fewer games. Fans are hoping he can recapture his 25-goal form and carry the second line on his now recovered back.

It’s not likely to happen.

That’s nothing against Raymond at all. It’s just about understanding what happened in his 25-goal season. Of Raymond’s 53 points that season, 35 came at even-strength and 18 came on the powerplay. That season, Kesler was on the second powerplay unit and finished second in powerplay points to Henrik Sedin. 8 of Raymond’s 25 goals were scored on the powerplay, leaving him with 17 even-strength goals.

The next season, Kesler was moved to the top unit with the Sedins, a move that was wildly successful but left the second unit without any identity whatsoever. Raymond scored just 2 goals and 4 assists on the powerplay. At even-strength, he had 12 goals and 20 assists, for a total of 32 even-strength points.

At even-strength, Raymond scored 35 points in 2009-10 and 32 points in 2010-11, playing 12 fewer games. Raymond actually scored more at even-strength in 2010-11. What dropped was his powerplay scoring. The truth is that the powerplay does not play to Raymond’s main strength, his speed off the rush. Kesler was the one driving the success of the second unit in 2009-10 and Raymond rode that success to a career year. Unless Raymond feeds off better players on the powerplay, he’s not going to have the same kind of year.

If Raymond can score 20 points at even-strength, approximately equivalent to 35 even-strength points in a full season, then that should be considered a fairly successful season. If he embraces his role as the leader of the second line at the start of the season and scores more than 20 points, Canucks fans should be thrilled.

Three players are battling for the remaining two spots on that line: Jordan Schroeder, Andrew Ebbett, and Zack Kassian. Between the three of them, they played 35 games for the Canucks last season. Schroeder and Ebbett are battling to centre the second line, but either one of them could potentially slide over to the wing as well, meaning Kassian’s spot isn’t secure either.

It’s hard to say who would be most successful with Raymond: Schroeder complements his speed, Ebbett has veteran savvy, while Kassian can play the more physical role that eludes Raymond and also be a playmaker from the wing. Either way, it’s likely expecting too much for a 25-goal pace from him, but it was expecting too much to see that in 2010-11 as well.

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9 comments

  1. Canuckfaninsf
    January 16, 2013

    I really felt so bad for MayRay last season. Coming back from a serious injury, seeing him skate on ice was a miracle in on itself. Last year, he was put through the wringer by the fans and media. I hope that he comes out a stronger and better player because of it. Still a fan. I just hope he could stand on his skates long enough. I keed, I keed. :)

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  2. Kate
    January 16, 2013

    I was banking on the noivus link being that Jack White song, thanks for not disappointing. Despite mayray’s shortcomings I still believe in him, mostly because of my inability to differentiate hockey from the kinds of people the players are, he seems nice okay.

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  3. rob
    January 16, 2013

    Surgically reconstructed back? I don’t think so. His only reconstruction was courtesy of Boychuk.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      January 16, 2013

      Ah, you’re right, his injury didn’t require surgery. I’ll correct that.

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  4. akidd
    January 16, 2013

    for the first week or so after ray-ray came back last year he was on fire. i want to see that raymond again.

    hopefully somebody has taken him aside and told him1) no more wristers form the halfwall, 2) no more wraparound attempts 3) no more putting on the brakes at the point and waiting for the trailer who never comes.

    eliminate these 3 habits and all will be well.

    maybe with kassian on his line raymond can dump the puck more and let the big guy go get it. one thing i noticed with booth was that with all his speed and fitness he never laid many big hits on guys. if the second line can’t score much the least they could do would be to soften up the opposing d a bit so the 22 min per sedin line can have it a bit easier.

    and daniel, have you been listening to bob marley? ‘one love’ and now ‘the stone that the builder refused’. coincidence? probably.

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    • Sans
      January 17, 2013

      Actually there are more than 3 – I have a MayRay drinking game but it’s hard to even see a 2nd period if you’re playing it.

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  5. John
    January 16, 2013

    Here’s the problem: before the Booth injury, Ebbett and Schroeder were battling to centre the second line.

    Take any three of Schroeder, Ebbett, Raymond and Kassian and make a line of them. That is not a second line. It’s not even a third line. It’s a fourth line, and it should be played accordingly.

    The Canucks’ second line to start the season should be Higgins, Lapierre and Hansen.

    (This is assuming no line juggling happens that sees Burrows split from the Sedins and in favour of Kassian or something similarly odd).

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    • J21 (@Jyrki21)
      January 17, 2013

      Whatever number designation you want to give it is sort of beside the point. These guys are the “second line” in the sense that they’re not the top line, and not much of a checking line. I have no doubt that Vigneault would play the so-called “third line” more anyway.

      This is also why they’re not really a “fourth line” either, which is traditionally things like goons and players without any offensive flair.

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  6. TeeJay
    January 16, 2013

    Oh Heck with it! We should only asked this guys to put their heart into it but also remember that it takes TEAM WORK to get things done.

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