Things That Make You Go Hmmm: Raymond’s Return and An Unlikely Catalyst
[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]
Photo credit: thescore.com
It’s been two weeks since my last post here at Canucks Hockey Blog. In that time I found out that I wasn’t chosen to Replace the KB for The Province (read my thank you blog here), I channeled my inner-Shawn Stockman for last week’s CHB TV video podcast, and I attended the Grey Cup (and was interviewed for the CBC National News by Ian Hanomansingh). More importantly, the Canucks have seemingly turned their season around by rattling off five straight wins. And as always, there are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm…
- Mason Raymond’s Return. There is much anticipation for the return of forward Mason Raymond tonight. He’s expected to play on a line with Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen, effectively bumping Manny Malhotra down to the fourth line and Aaron Volpatti into the press box. I would suggest that expecting any type of significant contribution from Raymond right away is expecting too much. He hasn’t had a pre-season or training camp and he hasn’t played in a game since June 13. And even if he does return to his pre-injury form, what type of form are we talking about? Is it the 2009-2010 Raymond who scored 25 goals and 53 points and looked like he was ready to truly break out? Or will it be the 2010-2011 Raymond who struggled to 15 goals in the regular season and only 2 goals in 24 playoff games? Now don’t get me wrong: I’m absolutely thrilled that he’s been able to come back after suffering tissue damage and fractured vertebrae after being checked into the boards by Bruin Johnny Boychuk in last season’s Stanley Cup Finals. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t expect too much too soon.
Perhaps looking over his shoulder at Raymond’s return, David Booth has quietly improved his play over the past two weeks, including a couple of points in his last three games. Booth is looking more and more dangerous, and his 6 shots in the last game vs. the Blue Jackets matched a season high. Let’s hope it continues.
- An Unlikely Catalyst. After a middling start, the Canucks have risen to 6th place in the competitive Western Conference are only 4 points behind conference leaders Minnesota Wild with a game in hand. Judging by the team’s play over the past two weeks, it’s obvious that the Canucks are a confident group and the vibe I get watching them is similar to the vibe I got last year when the team went on a torrid 17-1-2 run (in games 21 through 40) from November 24, 2010 to January 7, 2011. This season, the Canucks have won all four of games 21 through 24 with Cory Schneider in net for all of them. Since returning from an injury he suffered against the Islanders back on November 13, Luongo has been relegated to back-up status setting off yet another firestorm of speculation and pre-emptive claims of another goalie controversy brewing on the West Coast. To be fair, there have been a few other factors contributing to the recent winning streak including better even-strength play and more balanced scoring from the forwards. However, the primary reason is indeed the stellar play of Schneider. It’s quite remarkable to think that at the end of the season we may look back and point to Luongo’s injury as the catalyst to the Canucks turning their season around.
- You Win One, You Lose One. It’s not the best sample size, but it’s still interesting that this is the second time that the BC Lions have won the Grey Cup in the same calendar year that the Vancouver Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Before this year, it last happened in 1994 when the Canucks lost to the Rangers and the Lions beat the Baltimore Stallions 26-23 on Lui Passaglia’s dramatic winning field goal. Coincidentally, that was also the last time that the host city had its football team with the championship. As I mentioned earlier, I was blessed to attend this year’s Grey Cup and I was thankful that the result was a lot better than the last championship game I went to (game 7 Canucks-Bruins). What a stark difference in post-game celebrations too…but I’m not sure what would have happened if the Lions had lost. Thankfully we’ll never know.
With the Canucks’ next games against Nashville, Calgary, Colorado, Montreal, Ottawa, Columbus and Carolina, the team has a huge opportunity to continue their surge towards the top of the Western Conference standings. Just how much of an impact will Raymond have? And when will Luongo next shed his baseball cap for his goalie mask? These are a couple of things that make me go hmmm.