Sometimes I think that Raymond gets lost in all the Wellwood-Hodgson-Grabner talk in regards to the Canucks' line 3 dilemma. Actually I think Raymond gets mentioned more in trade talks than anything else. Fair enough. As of Tuesday, when Kyle Wellwood gets his new deal through arbitration, the Canucks officially have the pleasant problem of having too many forwards.
Assuming that Burrows stays with the Sedins (because it worked), line 2 is set with Kesler-Demitra-Samuelsson, and line 4 is good-to-go with Hordichuk-Johnson-Rypien, then line 3 is a subway in rush hour in Japan. Somebody is going to be traded.
Is it Mason Raymond? If it is, I hope the Canucks get proper return value for him because I believe he may break out this season.
As with most younger Canucks players, they are brought in slowly, then given a chance in the top 6, and then demoted to checking line duty if they fail. Raymond is no exception. But when Pavol Demitra went on the IR most of the time it was Raymond who was promoted to line 2.
Whether he was on line 2 or 3 Raymond both gave us reasons to be optimistic and shake our heads. Part of his analysis by Hockey's Future prior to him being drafted sometimes rings true to him today:
Raymond possesses good puck handling skills although he sometimes has a tendency to over handle the puck instead of taking an opportunity himself. Raymond will score most of his goals on the powerplay or odd-man rushes when he can most take advantage of his skating ability.
Another knock on him is that he needs to hit the net more with his shots and capitalize more on his chances when he gets them. Sounds like Steve Bernier... Raymond ranked 5th on the Canucks with 145 shots on goal last season in 72 games. Scoring only 11 goals ranked him 10th on the team in shooting percentage at 7.6%.
By October, Raymond will be 24 years old. His time draws near. After last season, I hope he realizes how important playing a 2-way game is. Yes, he loves to carry the puck and score pretty goals, but he also has to get tougher and not play perimeter or overly fancy. He is learning that. To me he's looking tougher all the time, and he seems ultra confident. Like I said earlier though, he is going to have a hard time cracking the top 6. This also means that he is going to have a hard time getting quality ice time in order to break out.
Is this going to be a Ryan Shannon thing all over again? Mike Gillis traded Shannon to Ottawa out of mercy so that he could get the playing time. Gillis only got Lawrence Nycholat back in return. Raymond is not a 3rd line checking winger. He needs a more prominent scoring role. He is also in the final year of his contract, and makes $760,000 this season. He is going to do everything to prove himself this year, starting with cursing Demitra's groin. While he's at it, he may as well curse Bernier's hands. Bernier is the money guy trying to crack the top 6 as well.
Enough of that "curse" talk. May the best man win.
"Speed kills, baby!"