Mason Raymond and Sami Salo were given the best seat in the house against Minnesota, all the way up in the press box. But the difference between why the two were up there is Salo is being rested so the Canucks organization have a clean conscience when his bones inevitably snap in the playoffs, while Raymond has been rendered completely useless.
It was Raymond’s first benching in 3 years and it’s beginning to feel like he no longer fits on the Canucks’ roster. And it feels like that because, well, he clearly doesn’t. The easiest and most obvious way to look at it is on a line-by-line basis.
Line 1 – There is no breathing room surrounding Henrik, Daniel and Burrows. Splitting them up never lasts very long and there is no reason to break up one of the most potent lines in the NHL for the sake of Raymond.
Line 2 – Kesler has made it clear that he wants to play with Higgins and Booth. And Kesler ALWAYS gets what he wants. Just ask his wife, who didn’t want her son named after Ryan Kesler’s full name put together. Now Kesler has a son named Ryker and a second line that won’t be changing any time soon.
Line 3 – Trading Hodgson and bringing in Pahlsson shows the Canucks want one thing and one thing only from the 3rd line; mean and physical checking. Putting Raymond on the third line is like bringing a rubber chicken to a bazooka fight.
Line 4 – With the playoffs right around the corner, the Canucks are refusing to get bullied. Their 4th line has to be just as mean as the 3rd, but capable of creating energy through hitting and grinding in the offensive zone. A player who can either skate over the blue line and dump the puck into the corner or fall over repeatedly has no place here.
As it stands, Raymond is in a weird twilight zone. He is an extremely skilled skater, but just not quite good enough to make the top 6. On the other hand, he lacks the physicality required to play bottom 6 minutes. For the time being, unless his one night stand with the rafters sparks something in him, he can look forward to playing out the remainder of the season on the fringes of the team. Raymond will just have to bide his time until someone gets hurt in the playoffs and he can trip back into a roster spot.