The answer to the question "Is Mason Raymond better this season than last season?" is absolutely a resounding yes. No matter what a stat-geek will tell you, about the direction of his shooting percentages, his PDO, simply making him look better to the eye, don't fall for it. The reason why Mason Raymond looks better to you is, in fact, because he is a better player on offense.
Raymond's return has made the loss of David Booth easier to withstand for the Vancouver Canucks, because he's doing the things on offense that Booth was doing so well: creating chances, taking shots from key areas, and keeping the puck at the right end of the ice. Now, there's no way that he's as good defensively as Booth is, but the offense is still there.
Now, one thing that stat geeks have loved to tell you (myself being one of them) is that Mason Raymond was not playing as bad last year as you all thought, just by observation. Sure, Raymond declined from 53 points in 2010 to 39 points in 2011, but, keep in mind these reasons:
A) He was taken off the good powerplay unit. In fact, Raymond's production at even strength alone increased, from 1.87 points per 60 minutes in 2010 to 2.07 points per 60 minutes in 2011.
B) His shooting percentage went from a normalized 11.5% to a career-low 7.6%.
C) Pretty much.
Generally, the fans that whined that Raymond "wasn't cutting to the net" or "was shooting into the crest of the goaltender" might be surprised to learn how shooting percentage works. The difference between firing a puck top shelf or firing at a goalie's large chest protector is less than a split second off the release. You can watch any guy with a good shot and see a number of pucks easily turned aside by the goaltender.
Then you can hit a few posts, or miss a net in close, or have your shot bounce off a leg. Sure, those shots don't count towards your shot total, but the ones that go in do, and they count towards your goal total to boot. Particularly for players who aren't on the ice long enough to take a lot of shots, you're more likely to see wildly high-or-low shooting percentages because they have more opportunities for all of the bounces to go in one direction.
The more shots you take, the more chance that your shooting percentage will normalize.
Now, Raymond has only played eight games this season, so his individual shooting percentage of 14.3% is not indicative of where it will be when he plays more games. I'm convinced, that given his limited ice time last season (902 MIN at even strength compared to 1093 in 2010) that Raymond would have eventually regressed to the mean and been a useful hockey player.
But what we're seeing out of Raymond this season has been more than that.
|YEAR||Att/GP||Att/10 Min||SOG/GP||SOG/10 Min|
(As always, these figures are from Behind The Net)
Raymond is taking nearly a full attempt at net more than he was last season, and is shooting at the net more per 10 minutes of ice-time (of course, figures are only from even strength).
It's a small sample, but, yes, Mason Raymond is getting more involved in the offense than he ever was.
Even if, of course, he's getting fewer actual shots on goal.
What makes Raymond seem like he's getting more involved in the offense is that he's contributing to the Canucks' high Corsi rates, by putting attempts (shots, missed shots and blocked shots) towards the goal, keeping plays alive, pucks moving forward, and all that.
Really, Raymond's contribution to the team's Corsi rating when he's on the ice makes him an observably better player this season than before. Missing the net more could mean that he's not only not finding the goalie's crest, but he's also wildly throwing pucks past the post, or right into defenders shins at a rate that he has never before done in his career lately.
So, yes. While Mason Raymond is observably better this season than he was last season, he was also observably better last season than he was the season before, if we were watching at the right things that contribute to team success.