Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kesler/AV and The curious case of Mason Raymond

I almost skirted the entire issue as I was out of town during the AV/Kesler feud, but since I spent so much time in commute listening to sports talk radio I was inundated with opinions on what happened, and so I have finally formulated my own.

First off, as much as many media members defend the way in which AVs comments were repeated to Kesler, both the tone and timing were not appropriate, and it is a classic case of manipulation to get a story.  I understand the team needs to be open with the fan base at large in a market where even the casual fan knows the game, but to constantly beat that drum in order to gain support for the "journalist" that prompted this whole issue isn't fooling the same informed fan-base.  We appreciate the hard work the Vancouver media put in to keeping us abreast of all things Canuck, but if I were a media member I wouldn't be towing the company line on this one, I'd be embarassed of the schoolyard tactics of somebody trying to make a name for themselves.

Kesler could've brushed it off, you could argue he didn't respond correctly, but what do you expect from an intense and emotional player who is not playing up to his own lofty standards, let alone the standards he established amongst the fans and franchise last season.  I don't even buy the idea that AV was lobbed up an easy opportunity to send a message.  Again, people are reading way too much in to it.  He was asked a question, and he gave a legitimate and pedestrian answer, he never called anybody out, and his words were warped by someone who probably lost their laminate. To me the worst part is the supposed rift between the player and the coach that some people are taking from this.

Sure, Kess is in a slump, but the reaction from the media and fanbase as to his play is incredibly unfair.  I don't think last year was a career year. I personally feel Kess will score 40 goals again, and probably take home at least one more Selke Trophy, but coming off major surgery that followed an exhausting playoff run and playing with different linemates every game is not exactly the best situation for success.  Despite all of these challenges his points-per-game is down only .15% from last season, and there is still a lot of hockey left to play.  If this situation has left you concerned about the state of the lockerroom or questioning Ryan Kesler, you need to give your head a shake.

Which leads me to my next point - how does Raymond burst out of the gates after injury, and then slowly reestablish the frustrating waste of ice-time he displayed last year?  It's no wonder why CoHo is finally getting some ice; Higgins is still drained from his infection, Booth is working his way back in to the line up and Raymond is playing his way out of it.  If this team really wanted more toughness they should turf Raymond and keep Duco in the mix; as we've seen before, just having Dale Wiese is not enough. Wiese does a fine job, but he's on his own, and that's not going to cut it down the stretch. If the philosophy of the team was to truly play the best players regardless of salary then Raymond would get the Ballard treatment too.

I have defended Raymond in the past but he isn't bringing enough to the table.  If the Nux don't get an upgrade in the top six to replace him then they should bench him and put Dale Wiese on a second line with Kesler and Higgins.  The trio of Janik Hansen, CoHo and Booth have found some chemistry, and having three lines that can score could be the difference this season.  If they don't promote from within and give Wiese a shot then they need to acquire a Ryan Clowe, Scott Hartnell, Curtis Glencross or to a lesser extent, Travis Moen to bring some gritt to the top-six.

Raymond would be a welcome addition to a lot of other teams top-six forwards.  He has blazing speed, a great shot and is a terrific penalty killer, but the play often dies on his stick, and it's frustrating.

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