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01-18-2013, 06:05 PM
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Don't read too much into an inter-squad scrimmage, however I wouldn't be surprised if Raymond had a major bounce back year.

He's a highly skilled player - it's obvious to anyone who sees him play. His problem has been having the strength and desire to play in the tough areas of the ice. It pays to remember some context.

In his breakout year he played mostly on a line with Kesler and Samuelsson. Kesler in 2009/10 produced 25 goals and 50 assists and anchored the 2nd unit PP. The PP was reasonable balanced - Samuelsson moved up to the Sedins line for the PP and a cast of Wellwood, Grabner, Bernier, Demitra filled in the 2nd unit.

The following year was disappointing for Raymond. He missed 12 games due to a shoulder injury that limited his upper body strength. Also Kesler went from 25/50 to 41/32 - he was generating just as much offense, but you could argue he wasn't using his wingers as well (his shots went from 214 to 260).

AV decided to stack the first PP unit with the Sedins and Kesler and to play them for 90 seconds of the PP. This left the 2nd unit without a natural center and much less PP time. Not surprising Raymonds production dropped. I would attribute it equally to a personal slump, injury and reduced PP chances.

Last season I expected it would be a brutal season for Raymond. For a guy whose main problem is a lack of strength to drive to the centre of the ice, having major back surgery, missing the entire summer, training camp, pre-season and almost half the season, my expectations were low - and he met them. It was also pretty clear he didn't have the explosive speed that was his hallmark.

This season, Raymond has had the whole summer, fall and into the winter to workout and gain some strength. What I see from Raymond is a lot more speed, not just top end, but an explosive burst. In the 2 scrimmages I watched, I also see a willingness to drive to the net - something we didn't see at all in the last 2 years. I'm not ready to declare him a 25 goal scorer again, he has to be willing and able to do it against tougher opponents than his own teammates.

If he can't do it this year in the regular season and playoffs, there is really no room on this team for him and his NHL career is heading towards an early end. IT would be a shame because he is such a highly skilled player.

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