Note to Antoine Roussel: don’t get Zack Kassian angry

Zack Kassian is a surprisingly soft-spoken guy off the ice. In an interview setting, he’s low-key and fairly reserved. He can be that way on the ice sometimes, which likely contributes to his streakiness. It’s likely that motivation rather than skill will be his major limitation early in his career and it will be Vigneault’s challenge to figure out what motivates him.

Different players require different types of motivation, something Vigneault has spoken about in the past. “I think part of coaching is getting the most you can out of the personnel,” he said in a Q and A with the Vancouver Board of Trade in early 2011, “and that’s getting to know your personnel both on and off the ice and how to handle individuals. You can’t treat everybody the same way but you can treat them fairly. Some guys need to be handled with a little bit of cuddling sometimes and some have to be harped on sometimes. That’s what they want.”

I have a suspicion that cuddling is not the best way to motivate Kassian. Instead, Kassian seems to need something to get him emotionally involved. On Thursday night, Antoine Roussel of the Dallas Stars figured out exactly what gets Kassian motivated: royally piss him off.

Kassian’s second period bout with Roussel was a doozy. Roussel initially appeared to get the upper hand, but then Kassian began raining punches down on Roussel, showing him to be thoroughly outmatched. They weren’t just regular punches, though; they were angry punches.

Kassian continued to throw punches after Roussel fell down to his knees and even more after Roussel’s jersey came up over his head. The former is something that is normally frowned upon by the hockey establishment, but what’s frowned upon even more, however, is starting a fight when you’re wearing a visor.

After the game, Kassian laughed about the incident, saying, “I kept telling him, let’s take our helmets off, but he wouldn’t listen. He just charged me.”

He wasn’t laughing during the game, however, shouting at Roussel, “Take your f***ing helmet off!” as soon as the linesmen stepped in between the two combatants, as well as another F-word before the cameras cut away. He continued to yell at Roussel in the penalty box, but gave it up when it was apparent Roussel wasn’t listening.

It’s pretty easy to see why he was upset. It wasn’t just that Roussel fought with a visor on, it’s that he launched himself into the fight while Kassian was still expecting him to take it off. At the 58-second mark of the above video, Kassian reaches up to his helmet to remove it, clearly expecting Roussel to reciprocate. Instead, Roussel tried to catch Kassian off-guard, engaging with the larger forward immediately and throwing multiple punches before Kassian could respond.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising to see Kassian swinging wildly

Vigneault seemed to like Kassian’s emotion. Prior to the fight, Kassian had been dropped from the second line down to the fourth after a couple questionable defensive plays. While he only had five shifts after his fight, those shifts came twice on the second line with Kesler and Higgins, once on the powerplay with Schroeder and Raymond, and once after a penalty kill with the Sedins.

Vigneault’s decision to put Kassian back into an offensive role after his fight paid off on the go-ahead goal. His strong work on the boards freed the puck up for Kesler, who swung the puck on net. Jason Garrison picked up the rebound and, after his initial shot was blocked (painfully) by none other than Roussel, he fired home a slapshot, putting the Canucks up 3-2. Kassian picked up the second assist on the goal, giving him 8 points in 16 games.

Kassian still has a lot of work to do if he wants to earn a permanent role on the first or second line. Consistency and defensive awareness are two of his biggest flaws, with both of them potentially fixed by ensuring that he’s mentally engaged in every game with the right motivation. He obviously can’t (and shouldn’t) fight every game and being motivated purely by anger can’t be the solution.

Or maybe anger is the solution. Perhaps his secret will be the same as Bruce Banner’s: I’m always angry.

Photoshop by thepuckmonster on Deviant Art

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17 comments

  1. best behaviour
    February 22, 2013

    Great post & great insight.

    Also: Kassian smash!

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  2. BeCanucks
    February 22, 2013

    I don’t know if motivation is the right word: you don’t find yourself in the nhl lacking “motivation”. I see Kassian more as a “young puppy”, sometime mesmerized by the puck instead of taking his man, and lacking focus more than energy. But I only read recap and watch highlights, wrong timezone and all that… Does that sound crazy?

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 22, 2013

      No, that’s a fair statement. To a certain extent, the type of motivation I’m thinking of can be seen as similar to focus. He needs something to keep him focussed. In this game, it happened to be anger. After the fight, he seemed a lot more dialled in.

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  3. akidd
    February 22, 2013

    i like kassian’s instincts. he seems like a pretty smart player with the puck. good vision., nice hands, and thinks well under fire. all that mixed in with some bulldozing muscle instincts too.

    but all that only works when the confidence is there. we’ll see how AV manages it over the long term. punishing a player for mistakes is not the only way to go imo. it can take the wind out of anyone if they focus on not making mistakes rather than making good plays.

    kassian’s success will inevitably reflect AV’s success as a coach. if AV can evolve as a coach of young players(and i think he can) the whole team(and city) will reap the rewards. the nice thing about coaching is that you have so much more time to develop your professional skills than as a player, as long as you win enough games to stay employed that is.

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  4. chinook
    February 22, 2013

    It looked as though Kassian was so into it that when Roussel went down Kassian picked him back up with one hand, just so he could on throwing punches. The caution note to Roussel is a REALLY good idea.

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  5. chinook
    February 22, 2013

    PS: what a great photo!

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    • Rituro
      February 22, 2013

      Excellent photoshop. Who fills in the rest of the Avengers? Booth as Hawkeye, that’s a given… what next?

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      • JS Topher
        February 22, 2013

        Kes is OBVIOUSLY Captain America. Hansen as Thor?

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  6. Steeeve
    February 22, 2013

    One thing I have always felt is that it must really hurt punching a visor.. I worry about broken hands. Pretty weak on Roussel’s part.

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  7. Arktic Knight
    February 22, 2013

    I thought it was a penalty for a guy wearing a visor to start a fight.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 22, 2013

      There is a misconduct penalty for instigating with a visor, but Roussel didn’t get an instigator penalty, so the misconduct doesn’t apply. It looked like they both agreed to fight, so no instigator was the right call, but it’s still frustrating to see a guy launch into a fight with a visor on while the other guy is about to take his helmet off.

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      • Kesler's Nose
        February 22, 2013

        There should be a fine for wearing a headband too!

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        • obituary mambo
          February 23, 2013

          Having only recently seen the video for “I Want a Girl Like Trevor Linden”, I feel confident that Daniel could find a more flattering photo if he so desired. The fact that he’s actually a pretty good looking dude and chooses to use the headband photo speaks volumes about his strength of character and full out awesomeness. I suppose your inability to recognize such features is one of the things which keeps you from becoming a Canucks fan.

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  8. tj
    February 22, 2013

    I’ve always had the sense that Kassian doesn’t like ‘injustice’ or as this fight proved, people acting entitled or smug. I can’t place it exactly, but as someone who also grew up with a single mom, in financially tight circumstances, I recognize a bit of a working-class frustration and integrity seeping from this young feller.

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  9. Vik
    February 22, 2013

    The former is something that is normally frowned upon by the hockey establishment

    -He was only down momentarily before he immediately sprang back up. That happens all the time in fights. It’s frowned on when a guy is clearly down and out and a guy keeps punching him.

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  10. jdm
    February 24, 2013

    Hilariously, if you were watching the Dallas feed, Roussel won the fight.

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    • Paul from YT
      February 25, 2013

      If that’s the criteria, sweater over head and bigger guy pummeling the back of my head with his fists, then I’ve won every fight I’ve been in.
      Yay me!

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