Mikael Backlund could’ve salvaged Mason Raymond

This article was originally titled “Can the Flames salvage Mason Raymond?” The picture was funny to me so I’m sticking with it.

So we’ve pretty much heard the last of Mason Raymond. The disappointing winger failed to return to his Canucks glory days, or even continue the good form he had in Toronto. It was a smart move at the time that failed to pan out. That happens in hockey.

What’s glossed over is that Raymond was still useful, and was a member of one of the better lines the Flames had this past season. This article was written prior to the buyout news, arguing for Raymond to join up with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik to form a formidable middle six line.

The missing piece

The Flames’ forwards, and generally all NHL forwards, are best seen as pairs rather than complete lines. Players come and go, and whole lines rarely stick together long enough to be seen as one unit rather than just a temporary solution for a period of time. For Calgary we have duos such as Monahan-Gaudreau, Stajan-Jones (RIP), and Backlund-Frolik.

Frolik and Backlund were a match made in heaven as soon as the ink dried on Frolik’s contract. They both play smart possession games and formed a great partnership. Together, they played nearly 600 minutes this year, and drove play north almost every time they were on the ice.

However, they lacked a scoring touch. Backlund and Frolik can certainly get the puck into the offensive zone, but they seem to have problems lighting the lamp. Throughout the year, many solutions were attempted with little success. Colborne played there (106:53, 5 GF), Bouma did (52:04, 0 GF), Bennett did (260:13, 11 GF), and so did Mason Raymond (58.54, 4 GF). In terms of GF/60, only Raymond cracked over 4.00 with Frolik and Backlund. No one else hit above three.

If he can do one thing okayish, Mason Raymond can score goals. He is the toe for the tic-tac. He may not excel in the dirty work that results in offensive zone time and shot generation, but he can apply the finishing touches. That’s why he could be great if he spent a full season with Backlund and Frolik.

The case for Raymond

To argue why Raymond would be a good fit with Backlund and Frolik, we can take a look at a whole number of things. Let’s start with some simple charts.

All at 5v5, all from hockeyanalysis.com:

raymond1

Here’s how Raymond performs with regards to goals for with the entire team. Ignoring Brodie (the dot wayyyy over on the right), Backlund is the main standout with Frolik coming closest among forwards. Frolik is the red ‘O’ in Ramo.

wraymond2

In terms of corsi for%, Backlund is once again far and away the best with Raymond, and Frolik is not far behind (he’s the red dot overlapping the ‘BA’ in Backlund).

raymond3

Now the two stand out even more. What these charts prove is that Raymond is absolutely dependent on Backlund and Frolik for any kind of success. For whatever reason (likely because of Backlund and Frolik’s amazing abilities to absolutely put the team on their backs), Raymond can only work with these two. Why mess with something that’s working?

The counter argument is that there is already something working. Sam Bennett played on the left wing after Raymond fell off the face of the Earth, joining a line that was occasionally the only thing worth watching on certain nights. With Bennett taking an extra leap next year, that line could be a juggernaut.

Looking at Puckalytics’ Super WOWY tool, we can really answer this question. MMM is Mason-Mikael-Michael, and BBF is Bennett-Backlund-Frolik.


TOI
GF
GA
GF%
CF%
OZS%
MMM
58:54 4 3 57.1% 49.3% 37.5%
BBF 260:13 11 9 55.0% 51.5% 54.0%

Factoring in zone starts, it can’t possibly be said that the BBF line was better than the triple-M line. While triple-M didn’t have as much TOI together, they are still far and away the better combination. They drive possession north with zone starts that start south and score at a better clip, too. They’re everything you want from a middle six line.

The final word

Before the news broke, this article was supposed to go up today arguing the case for the Flames to keep Raymond around. Seeing as he’s being bought out, that can’t happen anymore.

Instead, we can now argue that Raymond should probably not have been the buyout target. Even if only he held value in a niche circumstance, the value provided in that niche was at least in the neighbourhood of the cash he was being paid. You probably can’t say the same for Dennis Wideman, who could’ve saved the team an extra $2M if he was bought out.

    • Baalzamon

      The 30 year old, because there’s absolutely no reason for the 20 year old to be played on the wing, ever.

      Assuming that Bennett needs to learn how to play center (he doesn’t), you don’t learn how to play center by playing LW, especially if you’re the passenger on the line.

  • DoubleDIon

    Backlund and Frolik bump anyone they play with. I think the premise of this article is flawed. I’d rather see a guy like Shinkaruk playing in that spot. Just as much finish as Raymond and not as much of a liability in other areas. He could complement that line rather than riding it’s coattails.

    Just because they could carry Raymond doesn’t mean they should.

    • TheRealPoc

      This.

      If we’re operating under the premise that Backlund & Frolik are most likely going to rescue whoever plays with them anyway, then the priority for that LW spot in the immediacy should be cost savings, not sheltering bad contracts. It’s one of the reasons why I think Tre’s held the line thus far with Colborne on an extension – if he’s incapable of driving the bus himself, don’t pay him like he can.

      Shinkaruk makes a lot of sense there, as does Tkachuk if he sticks. Both offensively inclined natural LWs who can finish, but might need some support with pro-level responsibilities across 200 feet. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to shotgun our two best possession drivers with a pure finisher?

      The ability to ice a competent middle six is probably the last big determinant in how good this team can be in 2016-17.

    • Gaudreau-Monahan-Shinkaruk was a 43.3 CF% line. Monahan and Gaudreau were significantly better away from him than with him (which appears to be a theme with other teammates according to hockeyanalysis). Shinkaruk does not massively improve anyone he plays with. He is Raymond with anyone other than Frolik and Backlund at this point in his career.

      And why even complain that Raymond would be riding coattails? It’s something that worked and something that worked better than with Bennett, Colborne, Bouma or whoever you want to throw on that line. If anything, the data shows that Raymond was not the passenger, he was the final piece. We aren’t talking minor improvements over one player, we’re talking about a dominant line.

      • DoubleDIon

        You’re making the numbers dance a bit there. Shinkaruk had 39.8% Dzone faceoffs and 23.5% Ozone faceoffs overall. He was 48.8% corsi guy overall despite this. His corsi is higher than Monahan’s and only 1 percent lower than Gaudreau who both had significantly better zone starts.

        Also I question your numbers a bit since he was at 45.6 with Monahan and 46.8 with Gaudreau individually. Not sure how that can equate to 43.3 as a line.

        Not even sure how relevant any corsi number is for Shinkaruk since he played a total of 86 minutes at even strength and that’s a very skewable sample size.

        • Puckalytics tool linked in the article.

          And if you’re going to say that Shinkaruk’s numbers don’t really matter because of sample size, you can’t really be arguing for him as a second line winger. He’s an untested commodity who got to play with the two best Calgary has to offer in the dying days of a wasted season. He still needs development.

          • DoubleDIon

            http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=1917&withagainst=true&season=2015-16&sit=5v5

            It shows everything and is much more widely used.

            I’m not arguing Shinkaruk is a 2nd line winger. I’m arguing he’s a better choice as a winger for Backlund and Frolik than Raymond who isn’t even an actual NHLer. Shinkaruk is not only better in the here and now, he also has upside. Raymond doesn’t.

            You seem to be arguing a point with minimal evidence. Sure Shinkaruk still needs development and isn’t an ideal choice. The fact that he’s a better choice than Raymond just reinforces my premise that your article is very flawed.

            You don’t put poor players with good players just because the good players can neutralize the bad players impact. Why not throw Bollig out with those guys while you’re at it?

      • Danomitee

        58 minutes of ice time is like 4 games. So “the data” is an extremely small sample size, I would never jump to the conclusion that it could have been a dominant line.

  • StarIV

    I like the Raymond buyout. Christian did point out that Raymond provided better results than other options, but I bet we can get similar results while saving some cap space. Slotting an 800k contract on the left of Backlund will save the club 1.2m next year. I don’t expect Shinkaruk to immediately start playing with Backlund and Frolik, but there is an opportunity for younger players, with a scoring touch, looking to break into the league. Maybe even a young FA with some scoring upside. But most importantly, the space can be used for mentoring and to help develop younger players.

  • freethe flames

    As NJ is in a trading mood I have a RHD they could use to help on their PP.

    In many ways this is a good trade fro both teams. We should now assume that Milan is already agreed to terms in Edmonton and if Demers has as well they are a much more complete team. Yes the lose of Hall will hurt them but they should have plenty of O to get them through.

    The question is can BT do something to improve our squad?

  • OILFANMEXICO

    Hey Guys, sorry off topic. When do you guys think Gaudreau and Monny will get signed? And what do you guys think a realistic contract will look like for these guys?

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    If Mickis and The Fro are indeed going to remain a forward pair, I’d rather see them make a good player look great, than a mediocre player look good.

    • Baalzamon

      The Oilers just paid WAAAAY more for Larsson than the Flames did for a superior player in Hamilton.

      And the Montreal trade might be even worse. Subban is better than Weber (by a lot) and they play the same position.

    • freethe flames

      While I was hoping for a Wideman trade before free agency I fully expect that after day one and the top end RHD FA are scooped up that someone will come knocking and we can get a deal done. I fully believe he gets traded but we will likely eat 1/2 his salary and at $2.7 he will be a good pick up for that team.