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.Tags: Mason Raymond