Is there a more frustrating Canucks player than Mason Raymond? The skill set is there: blazing speed, excellent dangle, accurate shot, etc. Raymond looked poised to breakout after a 25 goal season in 2009-10. However, the offensive production has greatly tailed off in the last 2 seasons with a 14 point drop last season and only 8 goals thus far this season. The Canucks have been patient with Raymond giving him ample opportunity to succeed on the 2nd line with Ryan Kesler. However, it appears their patience may be starting to wear thin as new fan favourite Zack Kassian has been getting increasing ice time with Booth and Kesler. What Kassian has been doing is what people have been screaming for Raymond to do and that is to take it to the net and to play in the dirty areas. Unfortunately, what Canuck fans have been seeing on a nightly basis is Raymond using his excellent speed to drive wide on the wing, but then stay wide and either fall down or turn the puck over easily to the other team.
If Raymond’s play does not improve soon he may see himself relegated to the press box in favour of a bigger body like Dale Weise who can fill in better on a checking line with Malholtra and Lapierre. I would prefer to have a Raymond or Higgins on the 2nd line and have Kassian drop down to one of the checking lines because in my opinion it gives the line-up a more balanced look. An energy line of Malholtra, Lapierre and Kassian would be $$$ in the playoffs and would be a thorn in any opponents side. However, if Kassian continues to click with Booth and Kesler then players like Byron Bitz and Dale Weise will have to step up and be more of a physical force on the checking lines.
As you can tell from all my ranting I’m already a huge Kassian fan. To me he is exactly what the Canucks have been lacking in recent years, a mean, hard hitting, toothless, fast skating, skilled power forward. In his first 3 games he has 2 points and a whopping 16 hits. The kid’s only 21 years old so there will be peaks and valleys along the way, but if he continues to keep it simple (being a net presence, hitting everything, letting Kesler and Booth handle the puck) he should be just fine.
– Coming soon: Blue Jays 2012 season predictions