Let’s start with the obvious: Mason Raymond had a horrible, pathetic, painful 2011-12 season with the Vancouver Canucks.
There’s just no denying that in addition to his lack of impact on the scoreboard – he managed 20 points in 55 games – he was usually a liability when on the ice. When he wasn’t giving the puck away, he was squandering scoring chances and screwing up great passes from teammates.
Problem is, this past year has tainted his previous years. There are those who say that even prior to his back injury, Raymond was “terrible.” I’d say they’re wrong. I’d also say Raymond is finally poised to have a big season.
Over the 2009-10 season, Raymond had 25 goals and 53 points in 82 games. He held tons of promise after that season, and fans were ready to see him expand on it. He followed it up with a 2010-11 season in which he managed just 39 points in 70 games (a 46 point pace over 82 games), and this past season’s 20 points (a 29 point pace over 82 games).
The injury effect
What people fail to realize, or forget to, is that he was battling injuries in both of the past two years. In 2010-11, he played through an arm/wrist injury that bothered him for most of the year and undoubtedly hurt the effectiveness of his shot. This past year, he returned in December from the horrific spinal injury sustained against the Bruins in the 2011 Finals.
This is where people use the familiar refrain, “You can’t use injuries as excuses!”
If you’ve ever played through an injury, returned quickly after rehabbing one, or played through the flu, you know the effect. It’s devastating. Just look at how a herniated disc affected Ilya Kovalchuk in the Stanley Cup Finals – he recorded just one point in six games. After the series, Kovalchuk said, “I think everybody saw that I couldn’t skate the way I used to.”
Some will say Raymond is not durable enough. Durability, to me, comes down to luck. The Sedins – more specifically, Henrik – have tons of luck, while Sami Salo has none at all. Daniel Sedin’s concussion this past year is the perfect example of this. When he was elbowed by Duncan Keith, there was absolutely nothing he could do. No amount of durability could save him from that concussion. It was just sheer bad luck.
The return of his health
Back to Raymond and how he played this season – when he went into the corners, you could safely bet he’d lose the puck battle. It was the most glaring weakness in his game, especially since he used to win those battles. During the 2011 Finals run, playing on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, he was instrumental because he used his forechecking abilities to win battles and pucks for his linemates.
And that’s where we are this summer. Finally, Raymond will have a full off-season to train and get into shape. Last year at this time, all he could do was wait for his back to heal after surgery. This year, he’ll be training, conditioning and putting on muscle for an entire four months.
Barring any more injuries, he should finally be able to build on that 53 point season of 3 years ago.
For fans, it might take some getting used to. The hastag #RaymondScores is not nearly as fun as #RaymondDown. It is better for the team, though.