Gravity is for pansies. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Who's this guy?
Also know as MayRay and the most frequent answer to the question "Who just fell over for no reason?"
Position: Left Wing
Weight: 185 lbs soaking wet
Born: September 17, 1985
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2nd round (51st overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (would now be an inappropriate time to mention he was selected before Kris Letang, Jonathan Quick and Keith Yandle? Probably. Nevermind).
What'd he do?
Lost in the hijinks of the Cup run last season hoopla around Rome, Riots and Game 7 was the fact Raymond suffered a fractured vertebrae along with damaged nerves and tissue in game six, an injury that caused him to miss most of the typical off-season training a hockey player would engage in during the summer months. Basically immobile for a few months, all Raymond could do was show up at events in a back brace. Raymond returned to the line-up in December and played in 55 regular season games.
So was he any good?
Raymond gets a bit of a pass for missing a quarter of a season recovering from a major injury. In addition he was one of several wingers who moved up and down the line-up, but Raymond's moves appeared almost as a stop-gap. When he did return he posted six points in seven games, teasing us that his stellar 2009-2010 campaign could make a return visit. But he would only have three multi-point games the rest of the way and though he notched 20 points (10-10) his production dwindled badly down the stretch (his last goal of the season, including the first round, was on March 24). Raymond was scratched for the first time in his career in March in a game against the Wild. The first round was equally uninspiring: he began the series subbing in for Daniel Sedin on the top line but he quickly found himself moving down in the charts. He botched a check on Kopitar that lead to the only goal in game four which resulted in Vigneault finally dropping Raymond to the fourth line in favor of Lapierre. He ended the first round with one assist and a -3.
What'd we like?
It wasn't a story reel season for MayRay but here's some choice bits to snack on and enjoy. When he's firing on all cylinders Raymond's speed and creativity are second to none.
But he wasn't perfect either right?
No, far from it. 20 pts is his worst production in his five year career (he notched 21 in his rookie year and played in six fewer games). His ten goals was the second worst of his career and his PPG's was tied for the worst.
Part box car & part advanced, here's a brief view on his on-ice product the last two seasons.
|CORSI Rel QoC||0.475||0.262|
|O Zone %||59.7%||55.6%|
So what now?
There's two mutually exclusive kicks to the ass when considering next steps with Raymond. First - and at the risk of having a harpoon chucked at my skull - let's not forget Raymond's 53-pt campaign in 2009-10 was intricate to packaging Michael Grabner and moving him with Steve Bernier to Florida for Ballard and change. Tossing a slew of variables aside for a moment, since that trade Raymond has played 125 games and scored 25 goals (0.2 g/g) and Graber has played 154 games scoring 54 goals (0.36 g/g).
Secondly Raymond's defensive play took a big step back. He had the best Corsi numbers on the team last year but this season it hovered near the bottom of the roster.
So if Raymond can't score and his defensive style goes south, he's not a viable top-six option. If Raymond's back to battling for a third line spot between Hansen and Higgins, he's arguably more valuable on the trade block. Hansen and Higgins fit the mold of a checking winger more so than Raymond and now weave in (a) the potential for lingering back problems or (b) the fact that Raymond often appeared hesitant to battle for the puck and you don't have an ideal bottom six player. For all we know Raymond see's five Johnny Boychuk's out there at all times.
Bottom line: was this season a fluke? If so, and the coaching staff believes he can flourish like he did two seasons ago, he'll be back in the mix. He's young, relatively inexpensive and has the potential to be a game changer. For what it's worth, Gillis is already leaning this ways.
But a vote of confidence in April won't mean much once the phone starts ringing in June. If Raymond can't be trusted to return to form then - just like Grabner before him - a change of scenery may be best for both parties. Adding Raymond to a package deal along with a bloated contract (Hello Mr. Ballard) would just complete the circle of trade irony.
We'll know the answer by June 25 which is the final day to qualify RFAs.