Canucks Lineup Decisions
With the dawn of the so-called American Express Line, the Vancouver Canucks have set sail on an effort to improve their offensive line behind the Sedins and Burrows.
This was once the secondary scoring group domain of Mason Raymond, and his blazing speed. However, a terrifying spinal injury late in the playoffs has rendered Raymond absent for the long term, and in a thought provoking move, Mike Gillis moved decisively to pinch David Booth from the Florida Panthers.
The trade was intended to bring more strength, as well as more scoring to that second line.
On first impression, Booth has shown early promise in his chemistry with Ryan Kesler and Higgins, and as a result the implications for Raymond do not portend well.
Mason Raymond’s Return
Raymond signed a contract renewal just over a year ago, following a 25 goal season that made the Canucks management salivate at the possibility of further developing a speedy winger with a scoring touch. But as it turns out, Raymond was unable to continue his improvement on that significant step forward.
In the regular season last year, Raymond was still able to find the space effectively to get involved in the offence, with some slight decline in his statistics.
But the playoffs were a much tougher proposition for the slight winger.
Though he was able to maintain his good form as a penalty killer, his five on five playing form suffered greatly.
In the offensive zone Raymond’s play was restricted to either quick passes to his linemates, or he would try to chip the puck up the side boards and race on to it.
However, the tighter checking in the post-season saw defencemen rubbing him out as tried to skate on the outside. Raymond was unable to cope well with this more physical play.
When he finally does make it back, the question will be where does he play, or will he be able to stay with the team at all? Assuming the Canucks recover from their shaky October start (which may extend longer based on current form), the lines may be settled to the point that Raymond becomes surplus to needs.
With Booth, as long as his goal scoring touch returns, his similar speed and extra dimension of strength make him a more valuable asset than Raymond on the second line.
The third line is primarily checking, and appears to be set with Hansen, Malhotra and Hodgson, as the creative fulcrum when possible. The Canucks fourth line is of a more physical dimension and not suited to Raymond’s abilities.
If he makes it back this year then, through no fault of his own, Mason Raymond may continue to sit out this season.