Sunday, 13 July 2014

Quick Hits: Mason Raymond Appreciation Post

Extraskater made player stats for the 2010-2011 NHL regular season available this morning. I can't think of anything else catchy to say about 2011 because seriously, screw the 2011 Boston Bruins. Game 7 and the aftermath is pretty much the absolute worst thing a hockey fan can go through and I imagine that year is going to still sting for a while longer.

Still, the 2010-2011 Vancouver Canucks, despite all recent dialogue about doing the contrary (#bostonmodel), is the team that the current management group should strive to build. They were a fantastic team that year, and one that was an absolute joy to watch as well. Daniel Sedin led the NHL in scoring with 104 points, with a league-leading 57 of those coming at even strength. Henrik's 75 assists alone would have placed him 15th in the league in scoring, and Ryan Kesler scored 41 goals in a campaign in which he won the Selke trophy.

And yet, because we're idiots that can't appreciate what we have in this city until it's gone, that team still came under fire for some ridiculous things. Most notably in my memory, the play of Mason Raymond. Raymond was coming off a breakout 25-goal, 28 assist season and was expected to build off of this performance. In retrospect, it was an insane thing to expect. Raymond would never get 1st-line TOI or 1st-line PP time with Daniel Sedin on the team, and saying "60 points is reasonable second line production" is batshit crazy in this day and age. 1st liners score ~55 points per 82 games. 2nd liners score ~30 points per 82 games. 3rd liners score ~20 points per 82. That's the reality of today's NHL.

And yet Mason Raymond did improve on his pretty spectacular 2009-2010 season in 2010-2011, but he did it in ways that weren't immediately jump-out-and-punch-you-in-the-face visible. He became an elite puck possession player, an elite penalty drawer, and a 1st-line calibre rate scorer. Raymond increased his individual shot rate by almost 2 shots per 60 minutes between 09-10 and 10-11, and saw his 5v5 points per 60 increase from 1.75 to 1.95 - a rate comparable to Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa, John Tavares, Patrik Elias, Mikko Koivu, David Backes, Joe Pavelski, and Jakub Voracek. He also jumped to a 56% Corsi player away from Ryan Kesler compared to a still very good 51.2% Corsi player the season prior.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Raymond's 2010-11 season is that he managed to increase his 5v5 scoring rate while his on-ice shooting percentage actually fell by almost 10% (6.9% in 10-11 vs. 7.53% in 09-10) and his individual shooting percentage fell by almost 40% (6.1 % in 10-11 vs. 9.88% in 09-10). That's pretty phenomenal.

What really killed Raymond's boxcars was his great PP luck running out. He not only spent significantly less time on the PP in 10-11, but his individual 5v4 shooting percentage regressed in a big way. He scored on nearly 1 out of every 4 shots at 5v4 in 09-10, but that number fell to a much more reasonable 1 out of ever 9 shots in 10-11. His on-ice PP Sh% also fell by nearly 27%. Combining these factors meant Raymond's powerplay production in 2010-11 was just 1/3rd or what it was in 2009-10, and there's really not much that Raymond could have been reasonably expected to do about this.

All of this is to say that in 2010-2011, Mason Raymond was an elite 2nd line/fringe 1st line left winger, not the disappointing player that the Vancouver MSM and fanbase characterized him as. And for his $2.5 M/yr cap hit, Raymond was a massive bargain and no small part of the best offense that Vancouver has ever seen.


An aside to the Raymond appreciation: it's a damn shame that his back was broken by Johnny Boychuk and Raymond has never quite been the same player since, but I think it's a bigger shame that he was run out of town amid criticisms that he was too soft, played on the perimeter, and "his hands never caught up to his feet," which is just a bullshit way of saying "you skate as fast as Pavel Bure so I don't understand why you aren't Pavel Bure."

Raymond's perception in this market is a real sore spot for me. It really is. He was one of my favourite players because I thought he was tremendously effective at generating offensive chances (it turns out he really was - I didn't follow fancystats at all until midway through the next season but as you can see, his fancystats were fantastic), so all the "lol raymond fell down again" and the "soft perimeter player" stuff really, really aggravated me. The point of hockey is to score more goals than your opponents, and it was blindingly obvious that Mason Raymond helped the Canucks do just that. If someone couldn't see that from just the eye test, I don't know what sport they were watching.

The whole Raymond situation was also one of the things that convinced me that Vancouver mainstream media does not have a clue how hockey works, and also can't do basic second grade math. Around the 60th game of the season or so (Raymond's 50th game since he'd missed 10 due to injury), the TEAM 1040 was doing their usual "Mason Raymond is soft" routine so I sent this email:

It's not even that difficult an argument. There's no Corsi or Fenwick or unfavourable percentages (mostly because I didn't know those were really things yet), it's just points. I was, uh, "fortunate" enough to get both an on-air response and an email response from Barry MacDonald. I don't have the audio, but his on-air response was something snarky and condescending. He claimed that Raymond was on pace for 40-ish points that season and chastised me for my math skills, adding something along the lines of "if this is the type of student our education system is producing, we're in real trouble!"

It doesn't take a freaking math genius to go "0.62 points per game times 82 games = 50.8 points per 82 games!" and I'm fairly sure that most first graders can understand "82 game season." And the "our future is in danger" crack is just a ridiculous thing to say. I got this email response:

That would be a great mic drop had he not been completely wrong about Raymond's scoring rate.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rhys,

    Firstly I wanna say that I've heard your podcast, followed some tweets, and I generally like your stuff. That said, I disagree with your take on Raymond. If there's one guy who I'd expect to have good possession numbers while continually disappointing, it would be Raymond. I've never in my hockey life seen someone with such nice wheels, and brief flashes of brilliance, have play and momentum die on his stick so frequently.

    You can disagree with me on that, but it would be very hard to disagree with this: Mason Raymond was not good in the playoffs. This is why I got over him. He doesn't have the game or intangibles needed consistently in the post season. This is borne out by traditional stats, and for my needs, supported by watching every single playoff game in MayRay's career. My guess is a similar drop in advanced stats would be seen.

    Also, not a fan of analytical reviews consistently implying that low annual shooting percentages are somehow the sign of an anomoly, or bad luck, rather than poor performance. A player's inability to convert is the result of many variables, more of which are within their control than outside it.