The way we were
Professions used to be an integral part of raiding. While we still use professions to produce raid consumables, we no longer use special crafted gear sets for select encounters, there are no special reagents that drop only in raids, and there are no professional gains from defeating raid bosses.
That is, there are not many of those things. Not like the good old days. Remember when there were raid bosses that required a Skinning skill of 315 to skin? That was when the cap was set firmly at 300. Not only did you need a + skinning enchant, but you also had to raid in order to get one of two weapons that would raise your Skinning skill another 10 points.
The Zulian Slicer was a drop from High Priest Thekal in Zul'Gurub, while the Finkle's Skinner dropped from The Beast in Upper Blackrock Spire. While both could replace a regular skinning knife in your bags, to get the +10 bonus skill, either weapon would need to be equipped. Because Paladins cannot equip daggers, for example, Paladin Skinners required the Zulian Slicer.
That is, if they wanted to be able to skin The Beast or Onyxia. This wasn't only desirable, but necessary for raid progression. Skinning Onyxia gives the Scale of Onyxia, which was required to craft the Onyxia Scale Cloaks that guilds needed to progress through Blackwing Lair.
The Beast, when skinned, sometimes dropped Pristine Hide of the Beast, which was used in the crafting of some very special epics.
Do you recall the Zandalar Tribe? Raiding rewards were not just loot and content, but special crafting reagents, reputations, in-depth quest lines and paths to loot that were very involved. The Zul'Gurub experience was a broad one, and in turn, expanded the professions experience as well.
Now and then
While Karazhan had limited crafting rewards, and Naxxramas ala Wrath did have an optional frost resistance gear (crafted) component, the biggest role that professions currently play in raiding is in consumables, and even that market is not stable. When Naxx started to get boring before Ulduar came out, few people were even bothering with flasks.
Ulduar, an instance that was appropriately difficult when it opened, and perhaps with the odd nerf, has been nerf-batted so hard that people are skipping flasks and food once again.
These days, Engineers are having some fun in raids, deconstructing mechanical "corpses" and hunting down a pattern or two, but I really think that it could be so much more.
Of course, it's important not to glorify the past. Some of these mechanisms were painful grinds rather than enriching paths. How could we expand our professions by pairing it with raiding, without forcing players to repeat tasks that quickly become undesirable?
Back to the future
Let's use the upcoming raid instance, Icecrown Citadel, to do our theorizing, even though the details for this raid have likely already been determined.
We will be headed there alongside the Argent Crusade, having championed our home factions and proven ourselves in the Crusader's Coliseum, with the death of Arthas on our minds.
This would be the perfect opportunity to introduce bonus crafting recipes and materials, perhaps only to those raiders who also have the Crusader title, which conveniently enough opens up access to a new Quartermaster.
Perhaps, in order to progress, a certain portion of your raid (even if only one member) would need this title. This would allow them to collect materials that would form, in concert with crafted items from other raid members with reagents that drop in the dungeon, some sort of device or quest item that would allow access further into the instance.
This "hump" has been seen before. Right now, in Ulduar, the only way to reach Algalon is to complete Iron Council on hard mode which will start a quest chain that requires you to beat each of the Keepers on hard mode. Each successfully downed Keeper grants an item that eventually combines to grant you access to Algalon.
There is no reason why the hump could not be related to professions. I can see why people might groan at the prospect of having to create a new frost or shadow resistance set for every person in the raid in order to progress, so the "hump" idea might just do the trick.
There is also no reason why there could not be some legendary items in our crafting futures. Extremely rare reagents, or fragments, could drop and, when handed in to the right NPC in the right amount, would grant you a recipe of, well, legendary proportions.
Crafted mounts, something relatively "new" on the scene, could also be tied into raiding. I'd put myself through an awful lot to get a magical carpet that is less pink, and there are several professions that can't craft mounts yet at all. Beating Arthas himself could open up a quest line to such a recipe, or perhaps the Argent Crusade could grant you one if you gathered enough "resources."
Last but not least, raiding achievements could grant recipes or profession quests in addition to titles and fancy mounts.
Personally though, I think that I should be able to tailor a mini-Arthas or Yoggy doll to give to my Northrend orphan pet to drag around and hug when he feels lonely. Can I get that seconded?
Each week, Insider Trader takes you behind the scenes of the bustling sub-culture of professional craftsmen, examining the profitable, the tragically lacking, and the methods behind the madness. Could Woodworking be the new profession for the next expansion?