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 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:
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 %|
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 %|
And most telling, he went from being an elite player in drawing penalties to average:
|Pnlt Taken/60||Pnlt Drawn/60|
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.