Mason Raymond, pre-injury, post-injury, what does his future hold

My general theory on assessing player performance is that if a player frequently produces below expectations, perhaps the problem isn’t with the player. After multiple seasons of suggesting that “a player would score so much more if he only did X” perhaps it’s worth considering that X doesn’t lie within the player’s talent threshold, and he ought to be judged for what he does on the ice as opposed to what he doesn’t do.

Somehow that relates to Mason Raymond’s time in Vancouver, that ended when Raymond accepted a try out offer with the Toronto Maple Leafs Sunday. Raymond may have been cursed by his one 25-goal season in 2010 as a second liner, a season that he probably never would have replicated. It takes a lot to score 25 goals in a single season, and only the very best players can consistently repeat those totals. Just 17 players have 25 or more goals in each of the previous four 82-game seasons, and only 14 more have three such seasons.

The feelings on Raymond can be summarized by this passage found at Nucks Misconduct:

The hockey world outside of Vancouver is very surprised that Mason Raymond is still an available unrestricted free agent. Canucks fans and media who follow the team? Not as much.

Those are the word choices that anger me a little. I’m not the biggest Mason Raymond fan, but it was disappointing to see the media and fanbase in Vancouver craft a narrative around their perception of him and what he could do. He simultaneously took too many shots and not enough shots. He fell down a lot. He never cut to the net (because we all know that matters) and he never lived up to his hyped potential, and never let those skills shine in the postseason.

The main reason Raymond couldn’t find a job in his first ever UFA season has nothing to do with driving to the net or mysteries only relevant to people that watch the Vancouver Canucks. Stanley Cup Final games are broadcast around the world, and at the beginning of Game Six between the Canucks and the Boston Bruins, this happened:

Raymond had a tough post-season to that point. His on-ice shooting percentage was just 4.6% and his personal shooting percentage was 3.5%. Whether he was playing poorly or not, there’s a reason those numbers don’t sustain themselves, and his production to that point in the postseason didn’t mirror his performance. After his breaking his back however, there was a sharp, across-the-board drop in virtually every quantifiable aspect of Mason Raymond’s game.

Goals, points and shots rate:

  Goals/60 Points/60 Shots/60
2007-2011 0.741 1.63 9.37
2011-2013 0.624 1.49 8.02
Change -18.75% -9.40% -16.83%

His Corsi percentage (total shot attempts directed at the other team’s net) took a hit despite the fact his linemates’ Corsi percentage without him increased in the last two seasons:

  Corsi % Linemate Corsi %
2007-2011 54.1% 50.3%
2011-2013 50.3% 51.8%
Change -7.55% 2.90%

He finished a lower percentage of shifts in the offensive zone despite starting a higher percentage of shifts in the offensive zone:

  Ozone Start % Ozone Finish %
2007-2011 53.1% 49.7%
2011-2013 58.3% 48.1%
Change 8.92% -3.33%

And most telling, he went from being an elite player in drawing penalties to average:

  Pnlt Taken/60 Pnlt Drawn/60
2007-2011 0.5 1.5
2011-2013 0.6 0.7
Change 21.84% -111.08%

[Stats from Hockey Analysis and Behind The Net]

Raymond is just 28 to start this year, so he’s still close enough to his offensive peak that he could turn it around offensively, but the Raymond we knew pre-injury and post-injury is a different Mason Raymond. His goal-scoring woes in the last two seasons (21 goals in 110 games including playoffs) are due almost entirely to shot rate, so it has nothing to do with driving the net or going to the right areas, but simply he doesn’t possess the puck enough anymore. You can tell based on the way all of his statistics associated with puck-possession have suffered a sharp decline.

I think it’s a wonderful idea by Dave Nonis to bring Raymond into training camp. When you sign a player to a PTO, you aren’t just offering him a try-out with your team, but you’re also showcasing him for the other 29 teams in the league. I don’t buy Darren Dreger for a second when he went on radio and suggested that this move puts any pressure on Nazem Kadri—Raymond is a winger, a reclamation project and Kadri is the team’s best centreman. Raymond may still be lucky to come out of this try-out with a contract and I’d be surprised if he has it in him to be a truly productive player at this level again. His offensive rates appear fine when compared to other third line players, but I’m worried about the sharp hit his Corsi rate will take when he isn’t paired with players on an excellent possession team.

Toronto does have a need for a third-line winger opposite Kulemin playing on the third line, which should be centred by David Bolland to start the season. That’s not the right fit for Raymond since that will be an exceedingly tough minutes line and Raymond’s defensive game is not where it once was. The chances of Raymond displacing any of the wingers on the Top Six (Joffrey Lupul, David Clarkson, James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel) seems exceedingly low and he’d need the help of an unfortunate golf cart accident in the days leading up to training camp. Toronto’s fourth line is a mess and while I’d prefer giving Raymond a redemption roster spot than to either of the two players that combined for 54 goals and 993 penalty minutes in nine junior seasons, clearly I diverge philosophically from Randy Carlyle on that matter.

At the very least this gives Raymond the option to get into some games, but I’d rate the chances of him starting the year with the Leafs as very low, unless they do something very silly and trade Kulemin to free up room for Kadri and Cody Franson.

  • Peachy

    Sorry Cam but I don’t think referring solely to statistics and the Bruins game really does this story justice without referring to his ice presence. And when you do, it’s simply unfair – you can’t compare Raymond’s game to a slot sniper who’s in the top 10 point leaders.

    Raymond is a peripheral player, plain and simple. Fans weren’t complaining that he spends he too much time in shooting lanes without crashing the crease, we were complaining because of his incessant habit of gaining the blue line with blazing speed, then losing the puck outside the high slot close to the boards but not close enough to initiate board play. Obviously his back injury intensified this habit, but it didn’t birth it… Mason played infuriatingly soft.

    What’s more, many fans (including myself) forgot that Raymond has a powerful wrist shot since he also took that wrist injury that hid in the shadows of Boychuk’s interference. People were genuinely excited at the start of last season because it appeared he was regaining his lost form. Of course, that disappeared. Which leads to the next issue:

    Raymond, to many fans, symbolized what was wrong with the Canucks. He was not gritty, he was not a ‘battler’ who found an extra gear come play-offs, and *most importantly* for the team, his secondary scoring was never present when it was needed. Perhaps he aggravated an injury in the latter half of the season, but I’m more willing to chalk it up to his issues with consistency.

    Sure some of the narratives against him were probably excessive, but on the whole I feel it completely fair that Canucks fans were sick of Raymond after he was given so, so many chances to get back into form.

    • Peachy

      This is the best summary of Raymond I’ve ever heard. And I couldn’t agree more with how he “symbolized what was wrong with the Canucks” in so many ways. He is without a doubt a soft player and not, in my opinion, what the Leafs need. Giving him a shot doesn’t hurt, but I’d be surprised to see him with a Leaf on his chest this season.

  • Leaf Fan in Mexico

    Cam, good take. I like the idea of Raymond too, but am not big on reclamation projects even as I usually root for them (Canadians have a perpetual love of the underdog!).

    Two things stand out for me if Raymond is considered a real option for the Leafs.

    1. does he fit the “a hard team to play against” mold, something I think will take TO 3/4 of the way to where they want to go.

    2. does he get TO out of the habit of thinking second (or third liners) are going to take them the other 1/4 of the way…

    Raymond may surprise, but not sure this the best way to build a team…..

  • Peachy

    The bottom line to me is that his salary demands are probably in the ~$1M range at this point, meaning he’ll be paid like a 4th liner.

    He’s a far more capable hockey player than most 4th liners, and could almost certainly drive play in that role.

    The problem is that he’s not the prototypical “gritty” player that teams, like the Leafs and, to a lesser extent, the Canucks, want in that role.

  • Leaf Fan in Mexico

    In a world where Raymond accepts a PTO, Cleary is mulling offers and Boyes is still jobless, why exactly did Higgins get a $10 million commitment when everyone knew the cap was going down $6 million?

    • Leaf Fan in Mexico

      As it’s seemingly been explained multiple times, because (among other things)

      a) while the cap is going down this year it is clearly going to go back up the next year, likely to an amount in considerable excess of the pre-lockout year

      b) Higgins is a better and very different player than any of the three you are cherrypicking for comparison. Boyes and Raymond are skill players who have been inconsistent at best in their careers. Higgins is closer to Cleary, though the latter is mostly a fourth-liner. Looking at other contract comparables across the league, he is in the range of Bergenheim, Clutterbuck, Nystrom, Stempniak, Glencross, Nielsen, etc. And is not out of place amongst them

      That is the world in which Higgins is signed for the term and amount he is at, neither of which are unreasonable. You speak about it as though the cap is forever diminished, that he’s being paid $10million a year (not $2.5million) and until he is in his 40s, not until he’s 34 as is currently the case.

      • Peachy

        A) The cap increase will be devoted to raises for Sedin, Sedin, Hansen & Tanev or their replacements. And possibly to Kassian & Lack, though it’s harder to project their 2014-2015 salaries at this point.

        B) In a vacuum, I prefer Higgins to Raymond et al as well. But I’m still not sure why anyone thinks Higgins wouldn’t have been squeezed as a member of the secondary market as well.

        In terms of the “inconsistencies” of Raymond and Boyes, I think Higgins fits pretty well in that group. He has played on a number of teams and has had to take paycuts in the past as well.

        “You speak about it as though the cap is forever diminished.”

        Not at all. I speak about the cap as though it is CURRENLY diminished which makes cap space extremely valuable.

        There have been, and still are, a number of bargains to be found but the Canucks are devoid of currency.

    • Peachy

      If the salary cap really does go up, Higgins will be a bargain the last 3 years of his contract (assuming there is no significant drop off in his game), and fairly paid in his first year at worst.

      If you’re going to come out against contracts on the Canucks, starting with Higgins is a bad place to start, in my honest opinion.

      • Peachy

        You mean like his diminished play last season when Kesler and Booth were out of the lineup?

        I like Higgins. This isn’t about Higgins in a vacuum.

        I just don’t see the rationale behind locking up as many players as possible sans Schneider and expecting an improved result in 2013-2014.

  • Peachy

    I can’t stand people that base everything solely on stats, sure stats are useful, but they don’t tell the whole story…

    They are human beings and stats don’t account for that.