The Edmonton Oilers don’t like Zack Kassian very much, which isn’t particularly surprising. During a pre-season game, Kassian broke Sam Gagner’s jaw with an errant high stick that many thought was a lot more intentional than careless.
Little to no revenge was had in Kassian’s first game against the Oilers this season. In fact, Kassian got the best of the Oilers, scoring a goal and adding some salt to the wound by mocking Gagner’s face shield, ie. the one he was forced to wear because Kassian broke his jaw.
Unsurprisingly, Oilers fans were out for blood, eager to see someone like Luke Gazdic target Kassian for a little old-school revenge. They didn’t get their wish. Instead, Kassian scored the gamewinning goal.
The Oilers head coach, Dallas Eakins, faced a string of questions related to the Oilers’ physicality and lack of response for Kassian and was eventually pushed to the point he invoked one of the darkest moments in, not just Canucks history, but NHL history.
The video above starts at the beginning of Eakins’ press conference, because there’s some gold early. Eakins shuts down Mark “Moon Knight” Spector after he badgers him with questions about hits, saying that the perfect number of hits is “no hits” because you have the puck for the entire game.
But then the media specifically mentioned Kassian and Eakins started to wonder why. And, unlike John Tortorella, he didn’t respond to the repeated questions by glaring holes through the reporters’ chests and threatening to leave. Instead, he actually answered the questions.
“Are you alluding to retribution on Kassian, is that what you’re going after?” he asked, “To go out of our way in a close game to go seek retribution, to take a dumb penalty, I’m not sure how that helps us. Is that what you’re alluding to?”
They were. So Eakins explained that he thought Gazdic had done exactly what he supposed to do.
“Now I saw talk between a guy on our team that handles that very well and [Kassian] and one player wasn’t willing to engage,” he said, and I’m going to assume he didn’t mean Gazdic wasn’t willing to fight. I’m not entirely sure that is an accurate read of what happened, but it’s true that Gazdic approached Kassian at one faceoff and during a scrum. It seemed like Kassian was trying to goad Gazdic into taking an instigator penalty, but I’m not a mindreader. It’s certainly possible Kassian had no interest in taking himself out of the game with a fight and refused the invitation.
“What else do you do?” Eakins asked, before answering his own question: “Go jump him. Slash him. Cross-check him in the face. Go do something like that. But I’m not sure what that does to helping us win the game, when it’s a close game.”
That’s all well and good. It’s the opposite of how the Canucks have behaved of late, with Tom Sestito tackling an unwilling Jordan Nolan against the Kings and both Sestito and Jannik Hansen doing the same against the Ducks, but it’s a valid view on fighting. Eakins later said that he thinks fights “should be out of anger” and that he strongly dislikes staged fights.
But then he invoked the ugly moment when Todd Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore’s career.
I want our guys to stand up for each other. I don’t want us to be known as a team and you can get yourself in a load of trouble — a load of trouble — and you only have to look back at the Vancouver Canucks quite some time ago, when you pinpoint a guy and you say, ‘Let’s go get him.’ He did this to this player and then something bad happens to that player? Boy, you can find yourself in a lot of trouble. Now, you guys wouldn’t be in trouble. You’d write about all the trouble. But we’d be in a lot of trouble.
No Canucks fan needs to be reminded of what Bertuzzi did, but there seems to be a wide gap between pulling Kassian out of a post-whistle scrum, facewashing him and punching him a couple times and chasing a guy down the ice and punching him in the side of the head when he’s not looking and driving him into the ice.
Was there any need for Eakins to specifically bring up that incident? While he didn’t mention him by name, it’s perfectly clear that he’s referring to Bertuzzi. Perhaps a better question: is he wrong? The Canucks may have gotten some satisfaction from Sestito punching Nolan, but they didn’t win the game, while the Oilers seemed to retain their focus and forced Luongo to make some excellent saves to preserve the one-goal victory.
The one thing he’s absolutely right about: there’s a reason the media may have been more eager to see retribution dealt out to Kassian than Eakin was. There’s no risk for the media. Either way, whether Kassian gets punched or if he gets his neck broken, they get a story and don’t have to deal with the legal and professional consequences.Tags: Dallas Eakins, Todd Bertuzzi, Zack Kassian