Based on what he’d accomplished when he was signed with the Calgary Flames, I was somewhat excited when the team locked up Mason Raymond for a three-year deal last summer. He had speed. He had shown himself to be a pretty capable offensive player. And he’s about the same age as I am, for whatever that’s worth.
So you can imagine my immense disappointment when Mason Raymond’s first season in Calgary came and went largely without fanfare. Not only did it unfold without “fanfare,” but Raymond engaged in a virtual free-fall down the team’s depth chart throughout the season, eventually spending the playoffs on the fourth line with Brandon Bollig and Josh Jooris. (And that was because Lance Bouma was hurt, because Raymond had been a healthy scratch down the stretch.)
Now that the Flames have added Michael Frolik in the off-season, and that they have to juggle the waiver statuses of Micheal Ferland and Drew Shore (and the emergence of Sam Bennett), where does Mason Raymond fit in on the roster?
To get a sense of where it all went wrong for Raymond, I refer back to Bob Hartley’s lengthy chat with “Boomer” and Ryan Pinder this past week, which began with an acknowledgement that Raymond was injured in training camp and never really got out of the starting blocks (despite his hat-trick against the Oilers early in the season):
After this, Johnny Gaudreau progression took over and obviously there’s competition. There’s no given jobs with the Calgary Flames. You have to earn everything and once you earn it, you need to keep even working harder because you need to keep it because we’re telling the guys behind you, go after him because that’s how we’re going to get better…
I think that Mason, had a decent start but then probably got surprised. He had a few injuries, then Johnny went on a tear and basically stole his spot. Then it was tough for Mason to get going. But hey, it’s water under the bridge…
So, is Raymond a top line player? Nope. He’s definitely behind Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler. He’s also probably behind Michael Frolik. After those guys? Well, this quote from Hartley, where he discusses energy players, probably tells you everything you need to know about what Raymond needs to do.
You look at the Josh Jooris, you look at the Paul Byron, you look at the Lance Bouma, you know, even Brandon Bollig and everything. Those guys are forcing me in many games to give them ice time because of their intensity, because of their grit, because of their passion, their commitment to make the Flames a winning hockey club. For Mason, for everybody else, it’s the same rules for everyone.
Basically, we all experienced Top Six Forward Lance Bouma because of Bouma’s intensity and/or Raymond’s lack thereof. Heck, Raymond was a healthy scatch SEVEN TIMES last year, while Bouma was rarely scrached and, let’s face it, was rarely healthy. With Sam Bennett likely starting at centre, that means there’s a top six spot available for somebody on the left side behind Gaudreau (with Hudler and Frolik on the right side).
According to Hartley, it’s a fresh start with this coming training camp. But Raymond really needs a strong camp, probably more than any other player on the entire roster. He carries a $3.15 million cap hit, which is slightly more than Matt Stajan, who has proven to be a lot more useful for the hockey club. And with the Flames looking to cement new deals with impending restricted free agents Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, along with probably trying to clear cap space to retain one or both of Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell before their deals are up on July 1, if I’m a player with Raymond’s cap hit and history of spending nights in the press box I’m spending my summer getting my ducks in a row so I can claim a spot on the team.
Hopefully last year was a aberration for Raymond. He’s shown he can be a very valuable depth player and provide some offensive options for his team. But he showed very little of that last season, and Lance Bouma played more than he did when the Flames were trying to cement a playoff position. If Raymond doesn’t display the skill of a top-six winger or the hustle and energy of a bottom-six player on a day-to-day basis, I don’t know where he fits on the Calgary Flames going forward – especially with the Flames juggling roughly 16 or 17 forwards for just 14 NHL spots.
If he has a weak camp, there’s a good chance he’ll end up in the press box. Or the AHL’s Stockton Heat, where the Flames would be paying him his NHL salary (and eating up $2.2 million of their salary cap) to tuck him quietly out of the way and clear space for other players.
It’s very likely a do or die training camp for Mason Raymond.