The case for Lucas Raymond: A letter to Mrs. Blashill

Can the 2020 first-rounder make the leap?

Dear Mrs. Blashill,

We don’t know each other, but I’m a huge fan of the team your husband coaches. The reason I’m writing you this letter is because of an interview your husband had last week. He’s been busy putting together the Red Wings’ roster this upcoming season, and when he was asked about Lucas Raymond, he said that “it should be clear to my wife that [Raymond] belongs on the Red Wings.”

You’ve probably watched a lot of hockey in your life. I’d wager you’ve watched more than just about anyone reading this. I’m not sure if you’ve made up your mind about Raymond yet. After all, it’s probably hard to jump to conclusions after only watching him play in two games. The reason I wrote you this letter is to make a case for Raymond. The 19-year-old, while still a young guy, has shown enough in two games to warrant a full-time NHL spot.

A fated set of circumstances

The stage is set for a player like Raymond. From the current needs in the roster to Jakub Vrana’s injury, it seems like fate herself has a hand in opening a spot on the roster. Take Yzerman’s thoughts on the wins and losses record, for example:

This is a year of transitions. The era of the Luke Glendenings and Darren Helms of Detroit has come to an end. Change is in the air — and if the preseason games thus far have indicated anything, it’s that the youth aren’t going down without a fight. Joe Veleno looks ready to take on the NHL. Moritz Seider looks right at home. Even Taro Hirose is giving 110% to fight for a spot on the roster. If there ever was a season for a youth movement, it’s here and now.

Why Lucas Raymond deserves a shot

The last two seasons have been nothing short of horrendous for Detroit’s offense. With the worst goal differential in the league in 2019-20 and one of the worst in 2020-21, change needed to be made during the offseason. Dylan Larkin, Robby Fabbri, and Tyler Bertuzzi’s returns from injury will certainly help. Unfortunately, two roadblocks stand in the way: Bertuzzi’s limited involvement due to his decision on the COVID-19 vaccine and Jakub Vrana’s shoulder injury.

Both of these moves will stifle Detroit’s top offensive players for, at the very least, a significant chunk of the season. Luckily, there’s an easy solution to the problem. Lucas Raymond comes at an affordable cost with more than enough upside. Currently, Raymond leads the Red Wings with four points in two preseason games. His production across the NHL is third only behind Christian Dvorak and Aleksander Barkov. Still, concern likely rises from the small sample size.

Raymond’s role in Detroit

While it’s entirely fair to chalk these numbers up to preseason production, what downside is there to starting Raymond on opening night? He’s not knocking any long-term veterans out of a roster spot. The current lineup has an opening within the team’s top-six. Assuming Filip Zadina gets the promotion to the first line, Robby Fabbri and Pius Suter will need a linemate. Raymond appears more than ready to fit the role. Take a look at Raymond’s role as a set-up man for captain Dylan Larkin:

The goal above from Larkin features a grade-A feed from Raymond, who was able to read the defensive scheme before calculating the perfect pass to Larkin for the goal. That high-end level of thinking is a commodity in today’s NHL. A player like Raymond adds a brand new dimension to the offensive schema of the Red Wings — something the team has needed for a very long time.

What if Raymond isn’t ready?

NHL entry-level contracts have a clause that allows a team to slide the contract another year if the player plays nine games or fewer. If Raymond doesn’t look ready for the big leagues in nine games, the team can easily send him down without a second thought. He can work on his game in Grand Rapids and prepare himself for his next big step.

The best part is the long-term benefits. If the organization sees Raymond as the “real deal”, letting him burn through one of the years of his entry-level contract could save the organization money down the road. If Raymond isn’t ready, they can simply send him down and develop him more.

Why Lucas Raymond should make the roster

Starting Raymond on opening night is a low-risk, high-reward move. It shows the organization’s confidence in him and allows Raymond to face off against high-level competitors in the NHL. In order for Raymond to develop into the player Detroit wants him to be, he’ll need to up his game to the highest possible level. Taking on AHL-caliber players can only get him so far. If he’s ready to take the next step, he should have that opportunity.

If he’s not ready, the team can always send him down. Hurting a player’s confidence can damage them in the long run, but as long as the Red Wings properly manage their assets, they shouldn’t be worried. As far as a player like Lucas Raymond goes, giving him a chance on opening night could potentially pay dividends for the organization. At best, you’ve got an answer to your problems. At worst, you can send him down to Grand Rapids to develop more.

I hope you consider these options as you discuss hockey with your husband, Mrs. Blashill. Raymond will likely play a few more games before a decision is made — but I hope this helps clear the air on any uncertainty you may have.

Hope you enjoy the coming season.

Go Wings!

Take care,

Jake Rivard