Fan favourite Mason Raymond re-signs in Vancouver, everyone rejoices

It’s official: when it comes to arbitration, Mason Raymond and Mike Gillis are just big teases.

For the second straight time, the two camps have settled out of court, with Raymond agreeing to a one-year contract worth $2.275 million. It’s a 12.5% paycut from last season, which is good news for fans for two reasons: first, because the Canucks now have a smidgen more cap space, and second, because the flexibility has to have returned to Raymond’s spine for him to bend that far backwards.

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On the anniversary of his broken back, Mason Raymond gets the gift of salary arbitration

It’s been a rough 12 months for Mason Raymond. As you might recall, on June 13 of last year, Raymond entered Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and came out not with a Cup ring, but rather, with a broken back. Then, after successfully working his way back to health, his return was put off because Alain Vigneault was riding a hot team, then further put off when the Canucks made a paperwork error. Then, once he finally did get back into the lineup, he struggled to produce and spent the next 4 months as the whipping boy of Canuck fans everywhere.

And now, just to really make these last 12 months a year to remember, on the one-year anniversary of his vertebral fracture, the Canucks have elected to take Raymond to arbitration, where they will argue he’s not worth his qualifying offer.

Worst. Year. Ever.

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Video: The Canucks give parenting advice to Mason Raymond, first-time father-to-be

After a suffering a gruesome back injury in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, Mason Raymond began skating again just this past October. But skating wasn’t the only strenuous activity he returned to in the early fall: around that same time, he also sired a firstborn.

The Raymonds are expecting their first child, a boy, in about a month, which means now is the time to be accruing as much knowledge as possible about their impending parenthood. With that in mind, the ever-helpful Derek Jory took to the Canucks’ locker room to elicit some advice for the first-time father-to-be.

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What happened to the old Mason Raymond?

Mason Raymond has been a target for criticism for the vast majority of the season and it’s easy to understand why. The speedy winger has just 8 goals and 8 assists in 46 games and has been noticeably prone to losing his edge and falling to the ice. He’s survived a broken back, but it’s unknown if he’ll survive the displeasure of Vancouver hockey fans.
His recent promotion to the first line with the Sedins made sense on closer inspection, but that didn’t stop Canucks fans from freaking right out and calling for Vigneault’s head. Fortunately, the Canucks organization installed a statue of Roger Neilson in front of Rogers Arena and not a guillotine, or things could have gotten ugly.

I’ve been quick to defend Mason Raymond this season, pointing out that his deficiencies frequently mask his proficiencies. After all, Raymond was often criticized last season for his lack of production, but his underlying numbers were still strong, indicating that he was still a useful player whose efforts were under-appreciated. It was easy enough for me to assume that the same was the case this year, that Raymond’s lack of offensive production was making him an easy, and undeserved, target of criticism.

I was wrong.

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I Find This Photo Odd: The zombie Canucks devour a linesman

Earlier this season, Chris Higgins missed time with a mysterious infection of some sort, and we at PITB immediately screamed “Zombie bite.” Of course, no one takes our opinions seriously (which is probably a good thing), so our suggestion was ignored.

But then the infection struck again, and Higgins missed even more time. A highly-resist strain of infection? Definitely zombiism, which isn’t just highly-resistant, it’s potentially virulent.

And yet still, we were ignored. Eventually, Higgins was brought back to health with antibiotics and rest and returned to the lineup, where we have secretly feared that he would pass the infection onto his teammates ever since. And, judging from this photo from the Canucks’ tilt with the Phoenix Coyotes, it would appear that our concerns were justified. I’m not sure how this isn’t a bigger story, but on Wednesday night, Chris Tanev and Sami Salo ate an official.

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Why Mason Raymond with the Sedins isn’t the worst idea in the history of the world

Mason Raymond has become public enemy no. 1 in Vancouver of late, and it’s easy to see why. The winger only has 16 points this season, with 8 coming in his first month back from injury in December, so the numbers, like the fans, aren’t exactly giving him the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, nearly every error he makes occurs in the offensive zone, the only zone many Canuck fans seem to watch. Between his tendency to fall down and his penchant for turnovers, his squirrelly play inside the opposition’s end stands out even to the most passive observer.

Futhermore, you know there’s still a large contingent of fans that thought the Canucks could get what they need at the deadline simply by trading Raymond away. Amazingly, these same fans would have been happy if he had been flipped for a bag of Skittles (even tropical flavour). Somehow, the Canucks’ winger was both worthless and worth everything, and when he wound up going nowhere, Vancouver fans were upset that Mike Gillis was unable to move his magic beans.

When Cody Hodgson was moved instead, the mood on Raymond soured even further. For fans that had fallen in love with Hodgson’s play and had already traded Raymond in their minds, the events of trade deadline day were like swapping Hodgson to bring back Raymond.

All of this is to say that Alain Vigneault wasn’t going win, regardless of where he played the much-maligned MayRay Wednesday night, because fans want to see Raymond in a fiery furnace, not in the lineup.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at New Jersey Devils, February 24, 2012

One night after accomplishing the nigh-impossible in Detroit, defeating the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, Vancouver set out to unlock an even more elusive achievement: winning a game with offence exclusively by Aaron Rome and Mason Raymond. It wasn’t easy, but after becoming the first road team in 24 tries to leave Michigan with two points, the Canucks were clearly feeling capable of anything.

Granted, it wasn’t exactly an exciting accomplishment to witness, especially after the high standard of entertainment set in the game prior. As sequels go, this was the Staying Alive to Thursday’s night’s Saturday Night Fever. Yes, I have seen both films. I have also seen this game, because I watched this game.

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Why Mason Raymond remains a better second-line option than Cody Hodgson

Most Cody Hodgson talk in this city centers around two things: the observation that he’s incredible, which is accurate, and the notion that Alain Vigneault has yet to figure this out. Most recently, this came up when Vigneault placed Mason Raymond with Ryan Kesler and David Booth on the second line while assigning Hodgson to centre Byron Bitz and Maxim Lapierre on the fourth. Admittedly, this was a curious move. Whither Mason Raymond?

Here’s what I know for sure: Alain Vigneault knows more about hockey than I do. One of the things that continually bewilders me is the perception that Hodgson’s success has come in spite of him, as though one of the league’s best coaches is unaware that the young centre is a natural scorer. Believe me — he knows and, as Thomas Drance illustrated beautifully awhile back, he clearly knows how to use Hodgson. That in mind, it’s probably smarter to investigate his reasoning in this instance than to assume I know more about running the Canucks than he does.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Anaheim Ducks, December 29, 2011

Just like last season, the Canucks opened their California road trip a perfect 2-0 and, just like last season, the second win came over the Anaheim Ducks on the second night of a back-to-back. But the similarities don’t end there.

In both Anaheim games, Cory Schneider got the start and the win, the Canucks scored the first goal a minute in, and Daniel Sedin scored the final Vancouver goal, beating Dan Ellis and stretching the lead to three. Of course, there were some differences. For instance: I attended last year’s game. I watched this game.

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Wednesday night should have been Mason Raymond’s second big December 1 in a row. A year to the day after scoring a hat trick versus the Calgary Flames, the speedy winger was slated to play his first game since suffering a gruesome back injury that nearly ended his career.

And then there was a setback. No, it had nothing to do with Raymond’s health — he’s still good. It was a paperwork error. The Canucks simply failed to fax the proper forms to the NHL head office in time. Seriously.

As disappointing as this was, it was also hilarious (although we imagine Mason Raymond didn’t think so). Canuck fans immediately took to Twitter to make jokes at the Canucks’ expense, many of which were laugh-out-loud funny. What follows are our 20 favourite.

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Drance Numbers is the silly research wing of PITB. While Messrs. Wagner and Mooney blog nationally and solve mysteries, Drance Numbers will look into the minutiae of quantifiable NHL data and bore you with it every Friday. Today, Drance looks at Mason Raymond’s reputation as a “perimeter player”.

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Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few topics that deserve mention.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Mason Raymond is a shot ruiner

Here’s an excellent photo by Bruce Bennett of Getty Images in which he captures every player from both the Atlanta Thrashers and Vancouver Canucks’ benches watching the action at the far end of the ice.

Everyone, that is, except for Mason Raymond, who, with this photo, destroys any chance he had of ever being hired as a film extra.

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Whether or not Mason Raymond can get back to his level of play from two years ago will be one of 2011-12′s largest storylines. Once his back is rehabilitated, Raymond will be dropped straight into a contract year and, considering the glut of middle six wingers, he’ll be in tough to earn the juicy second line minutes he was getting in 2010-11. If he hopes to keep that coveted spot alongside Ryan Kesler, he’s likely going to have to score with a little more regularity than he did last season. But let’s not look forward. Let’s go back in time, to the 15 goals Mason Raymond scored in 2010-11.

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Late and dirty though Boychuk’s hit on Raymond might have been, my opinion is that he didn’t target Raymond’s spine; he just wasn’t really thinking. If Boychuk were smarter, he would have eased up once he realized Raymond was vulnerable, but he committed to the hit without considering that, and an unfortunate accident resulted.

What astounds me is that this is also the prevailing public opinion. Most people are willing to give Boychuk the benefit of the doubt. Most agree it was just an “awkward play”, as Mike Murphy said in the issued statement that announced no suspension. I simply want to know: where was the benefit of the doubt when Aaron Rome hit Nathan Horton? In that case, prevailing opinion seemed to be that it was intentional.

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So we’re five games into the Stanley Cup Final, and Boston has outscored Vancouver 14 to 6. Tim Thomas is the Conn Smythe favourite. The Sedins have two points between them. Ryan Kesler has one assist. The Canucks’ powerplay is 1-for-25. That said, the only number that matters right now is the 3-2 series lead they take back to Boston. Many thought there was no way they could recover after the most unsuccessful trip to Massachusetts since the East India Company’s 1773 delivery of three shiploads of tea, but the Canucks regrouped, refocused, then forced the Bruins into a complete reenactment of game 1. In that game, Vancouver eked out a one-goal victory with a third-period marker from the third line. Sound familiar? I recognized the similarities because I watched that game nine days ago. And then, yesterday, I watched this game.

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If you didn’t already know that this photo is from the dying seconds of Friday’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks, you’d be left intrigued by what, exactly, is up there. In fact, I look forward to two or three years down the road when someone comes across this image in a Google Images search and wonders if maybe something with wings had somehow gotten into the building and was doing barrel rolls in the rafters. A bat? A robin? Batman and Robin? Really, the possibilities are endless if you don’t already know that it’s just the boring old puck.

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Make no mistake: the Presidents’ Trophy is a pretty huge deal. Ignore anyone who dismisses it. It matters. Canucks fans have conditioned themselves to say it doesn’t–that only playoff success matters–but, if we’re being honest with ourselves, that’s only because we’ve never even been close to this accomplishment. We’ve steeled ourselves against the Presidents’ Trophy and, heck, the value of regular season dominance, too, because it’s never been within our purview. Now that it is? It feels pretty good. It feels momentous. Is it momentous? I’d say it’s momentous. In last night’s game, the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy. I watched this [momentous] game:

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Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler are such good buds–true besties–that they regularly engage in intense tickle fights, even at extremely inopportune times. Case in point: this photo was taken while the Canucks were trying to kill a penalty. If Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis wasn’t such a good guy, he might have given them a piece [...]

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Canucks 1 – 3 Coyotes A goaltender’s duel is nowhere near as much fun as it sounds (just ask Rick DiPietro). Despite the picture you have in your mind, in reality, neither goalie draws pistols, nobody walks paces, and nobody is slapped with a glove. Furthermore, there is never any threat to the United States [...]

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Ryan Kesler’s wingers are polar opposites. It’s like a sitcom on ice. Early in Sunday’s game versus the Calgary Flames, Canucks’ winger Mikael Samuelsson turned the puck over in his own zone, allowing Flames’ center Michael Backlund to walk in, uncontested, and score the game’s first goal. It was painful. For this ill-timed and completely [...]

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Canucks 2 – 1 Blue Jackets (SO) It’s a shame that the Canucks weren’t wearing their retro jerseys, because this game was a total throwback. The team played poorly, showing a complete lack of offensive flair and a general disarray throughout, but thankfully, Roberto Luongo stood tall and singlehandedly kept them in the game. You’d [...]

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Canucks 3 – 2 Blues I feel like we’ve been spouting this statistic a lot lately, but the Canucks still haven’t lost two consecutive regulation games since November. I used to be impressed; now I’m just annoyed. I mean, they keep alternating wins and losses, forcing me to point to this statistic every second game. [...]

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Canucks 4 – 2 Flames There was a surprising amount of hand-wringing following Wednesday night’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks, especially considering the Canucks hadn’t dropped two consecutive games in regulation since November. Suffice it to say, there was little to worry about (unless you’re Brad Zeimer, the Freddy Kreuger of Vancouver hockey reporting, in [...]

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Canucks 3 – 4 Ducks It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve watched the Canucks suffer a home regulation loss, and I’m a little uncertain of how to feel about it. At this point in the season, it’s not unlike like being gored by a unicorn: sure, it’s undesired, but it’s so rare that [...]

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