Reasonable Expectations: Mason Raymond

Double Flames-Palm

My initial reaction to the signing of Mason Raymond was undoubtedly tinted by the departure of Michael Cammalleri.  The squid left big shoes to fill and the timing made Raymond the obvious man to step into them.  The fact that Raymond was drafted by the Canucks and has been their property for most of his career didn’t exactly help either.  However, reviled opponents often become beloved allies.  Is Raymond likely to win over devoted Canuck-haters such as myself?  

Mason Raymond is a 28 year old (Born Sept. 17) native of Cochrane, which might be a giant suburb now but was more of a small town while he was growing up.  He was drafted #51 overall by Vancouver in 2005.  Listed by the Flames as being 6’0″ and 185 pounds, Raymond doesn’t precisely fit with Burke and Treliving’s desire to make the Flames a bigger team.  With a career shooting percentage of 9.7%, he’s not exactly a sniper with a finishing touch like Cammalleri. During his time with the Canucks Raymond wasn’t notable for his ability to score or even to get into dirty areas of the ice.  He was occasionally called out for sticking to the perimeter.  However, he was a key part of the team that went to the Stanley Cup finals because he drove possession and made everyone around him better.  Unfortunately, in game 6 of those finals, Raymond was hit by Johnny Boychuk (who still plays for Boston) and fractured two vertebrae.  He didn’t play again until mid-December the following season and was a very different player when he returned.

The Backlund Parallels

When Raymond debuted with the Canucks, he was initially very sheltered, as one would expect for a rookie.  The following season, in 2008-2009, he played primarily with the Sedin twins but managed just 23 points (the Sedin’s combined for 164).  In 2009-2010, at the age of 25, he was put into a shut-down role where he excelled, putting up excellent possession stats and a career high 48 points.  The future looked very bright indeed for Mason Raymond at this time.  He looked eerily similar to how Mikael Backlund did last season during his own 25-year old season, except Raymond put up more points and played with better teammates on average.

The (assisted) Fall

The 2010-2011 version of the Canucks was one of those rare championship caliber teams that could roll four lines.  Almost all forwards faced the same QoC and Raymond was no longer in a shut-down role.  Unfortunately, his Sh% plummeted from 11.5% to 7.6% so his point total was not nearly as high as it was the previous season.  However his possession stats continued to be excellent.  A WOWY comparison indicated that this wasn’t simply due to his line-mates.  His line-mates were significantly better with him on the ice than off.  Mason Raymond was driving possession on a team that went right to Game #7 of the Stanley Cup finals.  Unfortunately, during Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, Johnny Boychuk ended Raymond’s season.

Aftermath and Recovery

Team Season OZS% ES QoC TOI% P/60 S/60 Sh% CF% CF% Rel
Van 2010-2011 56.6% 28.8% 2.12 10.7 7.61 57.7 7.1
Van 2011-2012 62.2% 28.7% 1.40 8.8 8.00 51.8 0.2
Van 2012-2013 61.0% 27.1% 1.81 6.5 12.66 52.3 0.6
Tor 2013-2014 50.5% 28.2% 1.96 7.8 10.67 46.6 4.1

*Stats are for all situations, courtesy of ExtraSkater

Many have since blamed this injury for changing Raymond from a possession driving monster to a much more mediocre player. Raymond returned to the Canucks in December of 2011 and slotted in with roughly the same line-mates.  However, while he had made them all better the previous season, in 2011-2012 he was a possession anchor that dragged everyone who played with him down. His sh% continued to be relatively poor and he took fewer shots to boot, making 2011-2012 a very disappointing season.  The following season, in 2012-2013, he was given substantially more shelter but failed to take advantage of the easier competition to improve his possession stats or point production.  It surprised few when the Canucks declined to extend his contract at the end of the season.  Raymond went unsigned through the 2013 UFA season and was a training camp tryout with the Leafs.  

Imagine a player like Mikael Backlund being ignored through the UFA season and being reduced to a tryout contract because nobody was willing to sign him!  This is essentially what happened to Raymond.  While he missed only 2 games in the shortened 2012-2013 season due to a shoulder injury, Raymond was clearly still suffering the effects of his spinal injury.  The good news is that Raymond appeared to turn things around in Toronto last season.  Although his CF% was lower with the Leafs than it was with Vancouver the year before, Raymond received less shelter with Toronto than he did in his last season with Vancouver.  It should also be noted that Toronto was the second worst possession team in the league last season, ahead of only Buffalo.  

WOWY: The Leafs and Raymond

Player
Player CF%

Without-With

Raymond
Raymond CF%

Without-With

Player
Gardiner, Jake −4.2 −8.1
Reimer, James −2 1.4
Rielly, Morgan 1.2 0.8
Franson, Cody −2.1 −3.2
Kadri, Nazem −4.7 −6.4
Clarkson, David −5.2 −1.6
Lupul, Joffrey −6.2 −3.8
Phaneuf, Dion 0.6 5.3
Gunnarsson, Carl −2.1 3.5
Holland, Peter 0.2 1.8
Ranger, Paul 3.6 5.4
Bodie, Troy −12.7 −5.8

Here, we see even strength difference (between without and with) in CF% for Raymond and the Leafs he played over 200 minutes with.  Negative numbers in the first column indicate the player was worse without Raymond and negative numbers in the second column indicate Raymond was worse without the player. In general, Raymond’s line-mates look worse without him than he does without them, although he still suffers quite a bit without some of his line-mates as well.  Mason Raymond might not have been driving the bus last season, but he showed signs of shouting generally helpful directions from the back-seat.  

Even better than his possession game improving, Raymond’s point production also doubled.  Last season he posted the second best total of his career, although it took him a full 82 games to do it.  He finished #5 in scoring on the Leafs with 45 points.  Toronto undoubtedly got a bargain last season, paying just $1M for Ramond’s services.

The Future

Mason Raymond is at an age where he should be very close to his peak, but it’s clear that he still has a ways to go before returning to the form he was in three seasons ago. Recovering from a spinal injury such as Raymond suffered can take several years and might never be complete. If the Flames are lucky Raymond could improve year-over-year throughout his three year contract. If he returns to anywhere near the level he was playing at before his injury, Raymond could be a very important contributor to the Flames before his contract expires.  That may not happen next season though.  If Raymond is immediately expected to play top competition it may go very poorly for both him and the team!  He will probably need to be sheltered to be effective, at least for a while.  On the other hand, even if he merely treads water Raymond should at least provide good value for his relatively cheap ($3.1M/yr) contract and possibly bring a useful asset back if traded.  

The key to appreciating Raymond is to forget about losing Cammalleri and view Raymond strictly as a free agent plucked from the ether. On his own, he is immediately useful in a sheltered scoring role.  He can also be viewed as project player, since he has the potential to eventually become a possession monster like Backlund if his recovery continues.  

P.S.

I would wager that Raymond is pretty amazing on the golf green too…

  • Lordmork

    Do you suppose that Raymond might rediscover his possession talent if he plays with Backlund? Is possessing the puck a skill that you can learn from another player? Or re-learn?

    In my magical dreams, I imagine that Gaudreau will immediately prove to be a possession dynamo, that Raymond rediscovers his talent for the same, and that Hartley realizes this and plays Gaudreau – Backlund – Raymond. Sure, maybe together they’d be a line that lacks “grit,” but I’d rather have a line that tilts the ice in the Flames favour and then puts the puck in the back of the net.

    • piscera.infada

      That line would certainly have the speed. I think that – at least theoretically – you want to have Gaudreau with a more “natural” finisher (if the Flames even have one). That said, he did make both Abdelkader and Stapleton look all-world in the World Championships.

      I know you mention it, but I’d be worried about a lack of size and more importantly “grit” on that line. If someone were to take a healthy run at Gaudreau (which will happen), you’re going to have to rely on a defenseman to push back – which again, is likely with a guy like Gio on the team. I’m just not sure how much you want Gio sitting in the box…

      • Lordmork

        Fair enough! Do you think it’s better to distribute strong possession players through the lineup, or concentrate them, given that many of the Flames possession players seem to be smaller and less gritty?

          • RexLibris

            Yeah, first two seasons his most common linemate was Kesler, then the next two seasons were Hansen and Kadri, respectively. His corresponding 5v5 FF% rel reads +6.4%, -1.3%, -4.7%, +1.8%.

            What I’ve seen from Raymond is that he is a good, fast, puck carrying forward who gains ground but lacks offensive finish and can’t face the tough competition by himself.

            Nice complementary piece for a strong line, not the greatest core asset though.

            Probably best to put him on the right side with Backlund. By the way, Backlund’s possession numbers vs Kesler’s over the same four-year period:

            +6.8% to +7.4%, +6.5% to +5.5%, +5.0% to -4.4%, +7.6 to +1.1% and their Qualcomp numbers are very similar.

            If I had to pick between them, I’d take Backlund six days a week and twice on Sundays.

    • beloch

      Here are some ES CF% WOWY numbers from stats.hockeyanalysis.com on Kessler and Raymond:

      ———–TOI Together—-Together—–Raymond Alone—-Kessler Alone

      2008-2009 ——– 75:22 ——– 62.6 ——– 48.8 ——– 50.7
      2009-2010 ——– 801:57 ——– 57.1 ——– 51.2 ——– 48.7
      2010-2011 ——– 704:02 ——– 57.5 ——– 56.1 ——– 56.4
      2011-2012 ——– 331:02 ——– 53.1 ——– 49.7 ——– 57.3
      2012-2013 ——– 59:44 ——– 48.4 ——– 48.9 ——– 49.5

      In 2009-2010, Kessler needed Raymond even more than Raymond needed Kessler. In 2010-2011 they were both good without each other, but still played with each other a huge ammount. Only after the injury did Raymond start dragging Kessler down, and Raymond’s CF% took a big hit while they were still playing together quite a bit.

      To me, it looks like these two had great chemistry, but Raymond wasn’t being driven entirely by Kesler. Not before his injury at any rate.

      • Lordmork

        Awesome analysis, thanks Beloch.

        Even Kesler’s more pedestrian years are nothing to sneeze at. He’ll likely never be a core piece, but should fit well as a perimeter piece if this team is competitive by the end of his contract.

      • mattyc

        nah – I agree with Kent’s hypothesis. You have to take the numbers in this WOWY in context. If Raymond’s playing with Kesler, they’re playing the toughest matchups, otherwise, Kesler’s still doing the toughest matchups, while Raymond plays with the Sedins, or on a 3rd line (both of which offer way easier minutes, since the Sedins were notoriouslty sheltered under Vigneault).

        Having said that – Raymond is still a pretty functional possession player, and as Parallax put it, a useful middle-tier player. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to fill in Stempniak’s minutes, get 30-40 points, and tread water at even strength.

          • mattyc

            not exactly the same thing, but Cam Charron wrote about Raymond last summer

            Spark’s Notes Version: from 2011 onwards (when, as your WOWY chart shows, he stopped playing a lot with Kesler), minutes got easier, corsi fell (relative to linemates), and shot volume decreased. He also stopped drawing lots of penalties (something he was excellent at 2007-2011).

        • beloch

          I looked into this a wee bit more.

          In 2009-2010 Raymond played just 86:19 with Henrik and 11:27 with Daniel (out of a total of 1060:47). In 2010-2011, Raymond played 48:46 with Henrik and 24:05 with Daniel (out of a total of 891:31). Kesler also played with the Sedins, and almost as much both seasons.

          In 2010-2011, aside from Kesler, the forwards who Raymond played the most minutes with (in decreasing order) were Samuellson, Tambellini, Hansen, Burrows, and Higgins. The list is the same for Kesler except Burrows and Higgins swap places with each other.

          In 2009-2010 Kesler faced slightly tougher competition and had tougher zone starts than Raymond. IN 2010-2011, they faced indentical QoC but Raymond still had slightly easier zone starts (55.6% to Keslers 49.4%).

          So, the biggest difference between how Kesler and Raymond were deployed is the zone starts. They played against similar competition and with nearly identical linemates most of the time.

          It was a completely different story after Raymonds spinal injury though. We can only hope Raymond continues to improve and eventually returns to somewhere near the same form he was in during the 2010-2011 season.

          • piscera.infada

            Raymond still had slightly easier zone starts (55.6% to Keslers 49.4%).

            A 6-point difference is slight? I’d hate to see what you call significantly easier.

          • beloch

            It is slight compared to the spread over the rest of the Canucks that year. The Sedins and Burrows were up around 80% and there were 5 players below 30%. Vigneault’s deployments are bonkers.

          • mattyc

            I would think it’s still significant, because it suggests his time away from Kesler must have been a lot easier if he spent a lot of time with Kesler. Ex. If his znstarts was 50% with kesler, and spent 70% of his time with him, his zonestarts would need to be 70% the other 30% of the time.

          • mattyc

            That zone start seems pretty significant to me, but those are fair points. Are those TOIs 5v5 or all. What I remember from watching them a lot (I live in Vancouver) is that Kesler would be the ‘2nd line’ center, but would always play PPs with the Sedins.

          • beloch

            The WOWY stats are all even strength. Kesler definitely put up more points on the PP, but he put up more points in general than Raymond anyways.

            If I could pluck either player off the 2010-2011 Canucks team and put him on the Flames, I’d take Kesler over Raymond without a second thought. I was just trying to point out that Raymond didn’t appear to be driven entirely by Kesler before he was injured.

  • Raymond will be a stud this year on the 2nd line, driving possession and not taking too many penalties whilst chipping in moderately offensively. I’m expecting 15-25 goals from him this year, and 30 assists. 45-55 points seems reasonable.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Really good analysis Beloch.

    My impressions prior to reading this is that Raymond would be a replacement for TJ Galliardi. I still think that is probably a better comparison than Cammaleri, but I’m now a bit more optimistic that he could be a little more valuable than Galliardi. In the end, unless Gaudreau surpasses my wildest expectations of his rookie year, the Flames have done nothing to replace Cammaleri.

    In another vein, if Raymond exceeds expectations, it will be fun reading the about the Leafs releasing him for nothing.

  • Parallex

    Raymond will be fine. I thought the Flames should have picked him up last offseason TBQH.

    Having said that I basically think of Mason Raymond in the same way I think of guys like Glencross & Stempniak… they’re great depth players and you’re in great shape if they’re your third-line wings but if you’re relying on them to be higher then that on the depth chart you’re probably in trouble.

    Ultimately that’s what the Calgary Flames are at the moment, a team composed of guys who you would ideally love to have on your 3rd line… except that they’ll be playing on your first and second lines.

    I wonder whose wing he lines up on? I have a feeling it’ll be with Stajan and Jones while Backlund gets Glencross and Hudler.

    • Greg

      I agree with the Stempniak comparison. Optics of the timing aside, I see Raymond as replacing Stempniak, not Cammalleri. Which of course means Cammalleri is just a net-loss… if anyone needs to replace what Cammalleri brought, it’s some of the young kids (no pressure Johnny).

      I see our roster moves like this:

      Hiller for Berra (++)
      Raymond for Stempniak (push)
      Engelland for Butler (-)
      Gaudreau for Cammalleri (-)

      So my “reasonable expectations” are we finish more or less the same, but with the games being somewhat less entertaining given there’ll likely be fewer goals on both sides.

      • mk

        Engelland for Butler (-). You’re kidding right? Not only was Butler a pylon, but he was a wet noodle in the toughness department. Essentially, Butler killed a few penalties but was a warm body with a pulse (debateable) most nights. With Engelland you aren’t getting Bobby Orr but he provides toughness in his own end and will defend the small Flames forwards. I’d give it a push but due to my dislike for Butler as a d-man, I’m giving it a + for Engelland. I think he will surprise some people this year.

        • Parallex

          Engelland is a 13min/game defenseman. Exactly how much do you think he’s going to be playing with “the small Flames forwards”? It’s likely that most of his ice time will be spent with the likes of McGrattan, Bouma, and Bollig.

        • mattyc

          It will be tough for him to defend the small players from the bench because he’ll never be on the ice with the scorers. I’m willing to wait, but by November I’d be surprised if anyone is claiming Engelland is better than Butler. I hope I’m surprised but it just doesn’t seem likely…

          • Greg

            That’s my expectation as well.

            With all these “advanced stats” hires this summer, Engelland may go down in history as the last #gritchart type player to get a hugely over-valued contract.

          • RedMan

            Interesting the comments on Engelland from alot of folks who have likely never seen him play. I will go out on a limb and say that he will quickly become a fan favorite and one of the most popular players on the team. No he’s not flashy and he is very limited in the offensive zone but he is tough as nails, will defend any teammate and can play a regular shift. Let’s give it 20 games and revisit this topic. Forget about his contract and comment on his value to the team.

          • Parallex

            Actually I’m pretty sure almost everyone here has seen him play.

            Unless you’re supposing that Flames fans randomly and collectively decided to elect to not watch the team that has the best player in the game today face off against the home town heroes. Which is entirely a crazy supposition. I’m pretty sure the “a lot of folks” you refer to probably have seen him play about as much as you have unless you happen to live in the Penguins media market.

          • Greg

            So how many times have you watched him play in the past five years? And while you were watching the “best player in the game” did you even take notice of Engelland’s shifts? Didn’t think so. I’m bringing up a point that I don’t think many people have watched him play or taken notice of him so let’s give him 20 games as a Flame and pass judgment. I for one will trust the judgment of our GM and will reserve my decision until I see him play on a regular basis. Unlike you, most of us haven’t studied him intensely over five years and have your deptth of hockey knowledge.

          • seve927

            Yeah, that’s me. I’ve certainly watched the Penguins, but I couldn’t have told you who Engelland played for. He may not have played the games I’ve watched, and I wouldn’t have known the difference. I’m curious as to what he could possibly bring, but not expecting much.

      • Parallex

        Even if the true talent of the team is a push I think the team finishes worse off. The West is shaping up to be murder this season the only teams out east that noticably improved (in either true talent or relative terms) were our fellow bottom-dwellers.

        And I do think that Raymond ultimately is the replacement for Cammy in that I think the coaching staff will have him eating Cammy’s EV minutes. His PP minutes will likely be allocated elsewhere but if the coaching staff employs anything resembling a PvP linematching strategy it’s Raymond who get’s his spot.

  • Byron Bader

    Great write up, Beloch.

    I hope Raymond regains his possession form. I wouldn’t mind seeing Backlund with Raymond and Gaudreau. That would be one of the smallest if not the smallest 1st or 2nd line in the entire league likely though. Patches, Gallagher and Desharnais seemed to work well, I suppose.

  • mattyc

    But what I’m neglecting, and is a positive, is he did rebound last year, and possess the puck pretty well, draw a bunch of penalties. All while playing mostly with some combination of Kadri, Clarkson and Bolland.

  • mattyc

    I could care less if he was a former Canuck, when your dream is to play in the NHL you’ll take a job with any team. He’s a tried and true Alberta boy who’s come home. Anyone who can come back from a broken back has my vote. Yeah, he might not be overly physical or be the best goal scorer. However, he is an offensive threat and can help this team. He had a pretty good season playing in a pressure filled market. The only time he was a minus player was on a poorly defensive leafs squad.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Raymond has been a Flame killer his whole career. He’s a speed demon and a possession driver (for the most part) who will help the transition game greatly. I picture him playing with Backlund like many of you, but I hope D. Jones plays with them so maybe he won’t be entirely useless and add a power forward element to that line (then hopefully dump him at the deadline).

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I was just thinking that although there has been very little chatter about Mason Raymond in Flamesdom, he’s the most intriguing acquisition of this off-season. Between the excitement of the Flames young prospects and the disappointing contract that Derrick Engelland recieved, he seems to be the forgotten man. That is a great position for Raymond to be in, and a place where a quick start would make him a popular player next year.

    • RedMan

      because he was a Canuck?

      that would be like despising ex-slaves because you hate slavery.

      I ‘hate’ the Oilers and Canucks myself (as any good Flames fan would), but players that go through their systems should be pittied, because it isn’t their fault, but instead are just themselves victems of the bigger system that requies an equal % of NHL players to be on these teams.

  • RedMan

    Maybe Raymond’s tools (wheels, puck handeling) would compliment a line that has a finisher (Gaudreau) and another guy like, say Jones (or Bollig).

    gives Gaudreau good mentor, and can keep competition honest by not allowing them to focus soley on the skilled but smaller new guy.

  • RedMan

    As I read the series on reasonable expectations I wonder why there is not much speculation on how many points each guy may score. The guys so far I would say Backs will be higher than last year, Hudler a push, GlenX a plus and Raymond a push. I am using a plus or minus 3 points from last years numbers.+ for 4 or more, push for +/- 3,- for less by 4.

  • The Last Big Bear

    All I really want from Raymond is some crazy stupid blinding speed, and to keep a RW spot warm until the Flames find a definitive solution at that position.

    I don’t even know if Raymond still has those wheels, but if I’m going to watch a team lose, I at least want to watch them lose with some hustle. Fast hockey is entertaining hockey.

    I’m expecting Engelland to be halfway between Shane O’Brien, and last year’s Ladislav Smid. But with more punching.

    Punching is also entertaining.

    Faster players and more punching? That’ll help dull the pain of the rebuild a little bit.