As expected, the Department of Player Safety has chosen to swing the banhammer in Zack Kassian’s general direction, and we have good news and bad news on that front. The good news: fortunately for Kassian, the Department’s swing was not hard enough to break his jaw, so he got off easier than Sam Gagner.
The bad news: he still took a pretty big hit. Kassian will sit for the next eight games, the remaining three of the preseason, and the first five games of the season (meaning he’ll miss the rematch with the Oilers, which is probably for the best, since Steve MacIntyre will likely be in the lineup, looking to prove his relevance.) Kassian is eligible to return Saturday, October 12th versus the Montreal Canadiens.
We turn things over to Brendan Shanahan for the explanation.
“Recklessly swinging his stick and striking Gagner in the face and breaking his jaw” is a painful sentence for so many reasons. It’s a run-on, for one thing; it’s cringe-inducing for another; and it definitely doesn’t sound good for a guy’s hopes of getting off light. Jaw-breakers are supposed to be a delicious candy/choking hazard, not a type of hockey collision.
I had my say on this hit last night, and my gut reaction was that, disgusting as this play is, it didn’t strike me as a suspendable incident. It seemed, to me, to be a complete accident. But I also explained the interpretation under which I’d be 100% okay with Kassian getting a stiff suspension. We’ll call it the “partial accident” theory, where Kassian may not have intended to hit Gagner in the jaw with his stick, but he intended to hit Gagner with his stick, which is only one prepositional phrase different:
The league might see this incident as closer to Bouchard and Keith. They could argue that, like those two buffoons, Kassian’s act of dumbassery — which broke a dude’s jaw, remember — is the result of an attempt to swing for the midsection gone wrong due to his loss of balance. I don’t see it that way, but I can see how others might. If you think Kassian swung his stick with intent, even if the intent wasn’t to catch Gagner in the face, then by all means, ban him to kingdom come.
Shanahan doesn’t come right out and say it, but it’s easy to infer that this is how he saw the play after he points out a pretty damning observation: “Kassian begins the act of swinging his stick before he crashes into the boards.”
Well yeah, you would, especially if you’re trying to swivel and hit the boards flat with your back like Kassian is. But even still, while it’s possible that Kassian was indeed trying to steady himself, after the slowed-down second look provided by the DOPS, I’m definitely not as set on that as I was last night.
And that’s pretty much it for Kassian’s defence: “And while we accept Kassian’s assertion that he did not intend to strike Gagner in the face,” Shanahan says, “he is however responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in this instance.”
Emphasis mine. Basically, Shanahan and the rest of his crew found that Kassian swung with intent. Maybe not intent to strike or break jaw, but intent to strike. There’s no place in the game for that. Under that interpretation, Kassian deserves to miss every single game he’ll miss.