After long having given up on Mason Raymond, Vancouver watched as the perpetually-imbalanced winger opened the season with 8 points in 7 games as a Maple Leaf. By the time he returned to the city on Bure night, however, he had cooled off considerably and everybody generally stopped paying attention. A pair of other former Canucks started turning heads around the league, as Maxim Lapierre earned a five-game suspension and Manny Malhotra authored a movie-script return to the NHL in Carolina.
But after having seemingly leveled off to his previous Canucks pace, Raymond has picked up the offensive slack in Toronto once more. Including his game-winner against the Islanders on Tuesday night, he is currently riding a four-game point streak. And with 8 goals and 8 assists through the quarter-mark of the season, Raymond is on pace for a career-high 62 points. This, at a time when the Canucks' offensive well has all but dried up (6 goals during a 5-game losing skid).
Well, no. Not in the sense that Mike Gillis can be blamed for it, at least. After failing to build on his 25-goal season from 2009-10, Raymond was given what was widely considered to be an undeserved second chance with a one-year deal in 2012. And despite getting copious looks at the second line as a Canuck, he was consistently out-performed by the likes of Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins for top-six minutes.
Maybe he is only now fully recovering from his nightmare back injury in 2011 (a factor that Gillis publicly declared as a factor in retaining him). Maybe he would have benefited from the coaching change in Vancouver.
But in all likelihood, Raymond is simply another case of a player who needed a completely fresh start. Not only was Toronto carte blanche for him to start the season, it was likely his last chance to maintain an NHL career. As a result, Raymond appears to have finally responded.
And while MayRay-detractors on the West Coast will continue to wait for him to literally falter, the speedy winger may have legitimately found his stride as a Leaf. He is playing a lot and is earning his ice time -- in all situations. At 18:39 minutes per game, he is playing more than he ever has in his career by a wide margin.
Consider him the Mike Santorelli of the East. But as good as the Burnaby product has been for Vancouver, it will be just a small solace for Canucks fans if the team continues their struggle to score. Especially when Raymond continues to fill the net for Toronto.
It's nobody's fault. And I can't imagine he'd have 8 goals if he was still a Canuck. Still, you can't help but watch when a player so unanimously written off continues to prove everybody so wrong.
Stay tuned for a list of five other Canucks who needed out of Vancouver in order to revive their careers.
(Hint: The top one kind of rhymes with Pam Beasly.)
UPDATE: Here it is.
UPDATE: Here it is.