Paper Feature: Six ways to get through to Zack Kassian

This was supposed to be Zack Kassian’s breakout season. He started to put it all together at the end of last season, rattling off 10 points in 10 games as the Canucks played out the stretch, and the battle for a second line spot was wide open heading into training camp. It was hoped that Kassian would take hold of the opportunity, impress his new head coach and general manager, and be a consistent second line presence in the lineup.

Regrettably, it hasn’t panned out. While he’s shown flashes of the player he could be, he hasn’t been consistent enough to earn Willie Desjardins’ trust, and has spent most of the season on the third or fourth line. At least, that’s where he’s played when he’s been in the lineup.

Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks was Kassian’s third straight game in the press box as a healthy scratch and it’s become a familiar place for him. Understandably, he’s been frustrated and confused, as he had a strong game against Buffalo just prior to this string of scratches and has been a lot better this season than his detractors might think.

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Don’t trade Zack Kassian, dammit

Canuck nation is abuzz with Zack Kassian trade discussion. The poll question on BMac and Taylor’s drivetime radio show this afternoon: “If you were the Canucks, would you trade Zack Kassian?”

And this line of discussion hardly comes from nowhere. When asked if the Canucks were shopping Kassian, Jim Benning did little to quell the rumours, saying that teams have been calling about him. And Benning went on to dismiss Kassian’s scoring at the end of last season, saying, “sometimes, when the team is not playing well and you get a lot of those points at the end of year when the games are meaningless, it doesn’t really mean much.”

Between Benning’s comments and Willie Desjardins’ usage of the young winger, it’s understandable that there would be speculation about his future. Their comments, viewed through the pessimistic lens of the Vancouver hockey market, speak volumes, apparently: they don’t like him. They don’t believe in him. He’s not their guy.

That may all be true, though it’s all speculation at this point. Whatever the case may be, the Canucks absolutely should not trade Zack Kassian.

At least, not yet.

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Spitballin’ on Vey’s first goal, Kassian’s ordeal, and schedule purgatory

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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The second line’s other winger is a bigger question mark than its centre

Radim Vrbata with the Sedins is looking like it could be magic. Dan Hamhuis has been reunited with Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler looks rejuvenated with Chris Tanev on his right side. The Canucks have a multitude of options for their bottom-six and should be able to create two solid lines that can contribute with scoring, defensive play, or physicality.

The biggest question mark right now is the second line. We knew it would be as soon as Ryan Kesler was traded and the Canucks made it clear that Nick Bonino would replace him as the second line centre. But Bonino has been good all pre-season and currently has four points in his four games, so he’s not the issue right now. Bonino and Alex Burrows have been a consistent pair throughout the pre-season and it seems clear that they’ll be starting the season together on the second line. The most uncertain aspect of that line, amazingly, isn’t the guy in the middle — it’s who will be the other winger, as they have had a different linemate every game so far.

Who will be their linemate at the start of the regular season next Thursday? Let’s run down the five candidates based on who’s played with them (and will play with them) in the pre-season.

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Do the Canucks have other reasons for keeping Zack Kassian away from the Oilers?

Zack Kassian won’t play Thursday night in Edmonton, as he continues to recover from some sort of minor ailment that’s also caused him to miss practice this week. On Thursday afternoon, The Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap asked him if this would affect his preparation for the season.

“It couldn’t get any worse than last year,” Kassian said. “Last year, it was an 8-game suspension.”

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Four battles to watch heading into Canucks training camp

It’s the start of training camp, which means it’s time for rampant speculation. Who will shine in the pre-season? Who will fall flat on their faces? Which player will excel, looking to have a spot sewn up, then get a brutal injury in the final game of the pre-season and never play for the Canucks again?

The truth is that we have no earthly idea what’s going to happen, particularly in this coming training camp and pre-season. Thanks to the off-season shake-up both on and off the ice, my Canucks-branded Magic 8-Ball keeps returning “Reply hazy, try again.” Admittedly, that’s better than when it was telling me, “You know what to do: burn ‘em all!”

Here are four training camp battles to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

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Watch every goal Zack Kassian scored last season

There weren’t a lot of bright spots in the Canucks’ 2013-14 season, but the burgeoning play of Zack Kassian was definitely among them. Despite never really managing to earn John Tortorella’s trust by demonstrating the two-way play that earns one top-six icetime, Kassian still managed to put up 14 goals and 15 assists.

The assists may have been the nicer sign. Watching Kassian for two seasons in Vancouver, it was clear that he had some extraordinary vision — it just wasn’t translating into helpers. But finally, in the back half of the Canucks’ season, as everything else was falling apart, Kassian appeared to be putting it together. By season’s end, he looked like a guy capable of, perhaps, a 20-and-20 season, especially if he finds some chemistry with a centre and gets a spot in the top-six next season.

But enough about next season. Let’s talk about last season, in which Kassian did a lot of good stuff. In his collection of goals, you’ll see power moves, incredible shots, and some deceptive speed for a big man. Here’s every goal Kassian scored in 2013-14.

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Benning and Linden re-sign Zack Kassian, have no respect for regular work hours

Rumours had been cropping up since Wednesday that the Canucks and Zack Kassian were close to agreeing on a deal, but when Thursday afternoon passed without a contract signed, it looked like the deal wouldn’t get done until Friday.

Instead, as the regular 9-to-5 stiffs headed home from work, Benning and Linden powered through, blowing through naptime, and getting a deal done by the early evening. If it wasn’t for the always alert Elliott Pap, who scoffs at the idea of going home at 5 PM, we wouldn’t have had to wait upwards of 12 hours to find out about Kassian’s new contract.

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How much is Zack Kassian worth?

The Canucks’ new General Manager is going to be very busy right away. Linden has said that he wants a GM in place by the end of May. That’s just one month before the NHL entry draft, with free agency beginning a few days later.

In addition, the new GM may have to move quickly to hire a replacement for John Tortorella, as the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes are also in the market for a new head coach. On top of all that, the Canucks have ten pending restricted free agents that will either need qualifying offers or new contracts before June 30th.

The Canucks have an interesting group of RFAs, with seven of them playing at least a few games in the NHL last season. The two most important ones are Chris Tanev and Zack Kassian and they both present interesting problems. Tanev is extremely difficult to evaluate, because his contributions don’t generally find their way to the scoresheet, while Kassian’s inconsistency makes it difficult to judge how he will perform going forward.

Let’s tackle the easier issue first: just how much should Zack Kassian make on his next contract?

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Big Numbers: Last chance to see Selanne; Kassian tallies assists, Hamhuis draws penalties

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

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Zack Kassian gets three-game break from having to play for the Canucks

When Zack Kassian is on his game, you can see the potential to be the power forward that Mike Gillis was banking on when he traded Cody Hodgson to get him. He uses his vision and skill to dish the puck, his quick wristshot to pick corners, and his big body to protect the puck and create space.

Here’s the problem: he’s not on his game very often. And sometimes, when he’s really off his game, he uses his big body in a far less intelligent way. That was the case on Thursday, when he hit Brendan Dillon square in the numbers, sending him face first into the boards in front of the Canucks bench. It was an ugly, stupid, entirely unnecessary hit. He definitely deserved to be punished.

That’s why it’s frustrating that the NHL chose to reward Kassian instead, allowing him to take a three-game vacation from having to play for John Tortorella and his frustrating, goal-starved Canucks. This is supposed to be a deterrent?

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Shocking revelation: Zack Kassian does not exist

It’s been a trying season for Vancouver fans. After years of the Canucks hanging with the elite of the NHL’s Western Conference like Raven Symone with Mr. Cooper, the team has taken a step back. They’re still a likely playoff team, but only just barely, and there is literally nothing worse for a fan to endure than only just barely making the playoffs. No one understands our pain.

Fans have been forced this season to cheer for moral victories and just one Sedin (and as it turns out, not the good one). They’ve had to grit their teeth through a historic suspension to first-year coach John Tortorella and a brief, unrequited romance with Vinny “I’m a flirt” Prospal. Chris Tanev has a thumb injury. Jannik Hansen’s fallen off a cliff. The powerplay looks like it’s directed by Tommy Wiseau. It’s been tough sledding out here in Vancouver.

All that in mind, I hesitate to further compound the mental anguish through which the 2013-14 season is currently putting us, but, my friends, I have uncovered a lie so shocking it absolutely has to be shared. Please forgive me my dedication to the truth, but the people need to know:

Zack Kassian does not exist.

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Dallas Eakins invokes Bertuzzi/Moore to explain why Oilers didn’t go after Zack Kassian

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.

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Can Jordan Schroeder, Zack Kassian, and David Booth give the Canucks an effective third line?

For all the talk of splitting the Sedins between the Canucks’ top two lines over the past week, the discussion bypasses what has been one of the Canucks’ legitimate issues this season: the third line. The Canucks have a bevy of forwards to parcel out in the top-six, but huge question marks in the bottom six, starting at third-line centre.

Since John Tortorella seems content to leave the fourth line on the bench for the vast majority of the game, the third line is the real issue, with none of the Canucks’ centres taking the reins during the pre-season. The third line through the first five games of the season has been a mish-mash of Brad Richardson, Jannik Hansen, David Booth, Dale Weise, Chris Higgins, and Mike Santorelli, with some of those rotating into the top-six. The various combinations haven’t experienced much success and haven’t stayed together with any consistency.

Over the past two games, however, an intriguing combination has been put together that may solve the problem. With the return of Zack Kassian and Jordan Schroeder to the lineup, the two youngsters have been matched with David Booth to form a third line with the potential to have some staying power.

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Zack Kassian broke a guy’s jaw, so he’s probably in trouble [VIDEO]

Ever since the hiring of John Tortorella, it’s been assumed that, barring a major mishap, Zack Kassian would be opening the season skating alongside the Sedins in place of Alex Burrows. Yeah, about that. Saturday night in Edmonton, there was a major mishap.

On Sunday morning, the Oilers announced that Sam Gagner, a pretty important part of their forwards corps as the only guy without a hyphen in his name capable of playing centre in their top six, would miss a significant amount of time due to injury. The injury: a broken jaw, suffered when Kassian caught him with a high-stick.

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What can we expect from Zack Kassian with the Sedins?

John Tortorella is going to ask a lot of Zack Kassian this season, but he’s also going to give him plenty of opportunities to succeed.

That was one of the big messages to come out of Tuesday’s media availability, as Tortorella revealed that he contacted Kassian in the summer and challenged the big winger.

“I want to give him a huge opportunity to be a huge part of this team and I told him that,” Tortorella told the assembled media. “I’d like to see it happen, he is going to to get the opportunity but he is going to sink or swim himself . . .So that is why I contacted Zack. I think this is a big year for him and it’s a year I want him to step out of himself and be a big part of this club.”

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Every Goal, 2012-13: Zack Kassian

Zack Kassian started strong for the Canucks, scoring five goals in the month of January and looking like he might be on his way to an outright theft of Alex Burrows’ job as the third Sedin. Unfortunately, he fell out of Alain Vigneault’s favour and down the depth chart shortly thereafter, spending most of the season tarrying in the bottom six forwards while frustrated fans, thinking of his hot start, grew to see Vigneault as the reason it was no longer January. (Really, their beef was with Numa Pompilius, who added February to the Roman calendar in 713 B.C.).

But while Kassian’s season eventually turned into a disappointment, it still had its fair share of bright spots. Seven, to be exact. Let us relive them now.

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Spitballin’ on Kassian’s favourite snack, Ballard’s patience, and Booth’s new Twitter account

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Zack Kassian already a mulleted mess; soon he may look like a literal monster

Zack Kassian has looked pretty much ridiculous all season, but the playoffs are a time to step it up, and on Tuesday, the Kassquatch showed up to Canucks practice looking playoff ridiculous. Not only is he sure to have the team’s best beard, but he now proudly sports the team’s best haircut — a ratty playoff mullet that actually curls up in the back, because his hair is in a constant state of rebellion against his head.

After yesterday’s discussion about “hotness”, one might have been concerned that the Canucks were a team of pretty boys, too concerned about their looks to put it all on the line, but I would suggest that Zack Kassian singlehandedly breaks down that characterization. This dude is so unconcerned with his look that he’s bordering on something out of a Jim Henson movie already and the playoffs haven’t even begun yet.

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Bonus hardware! Handing out the real end-of-year Canucks team awards

The Vancouver Canucks handed out their team awards on Thursday night prior to their lacklustre effort against the Anaheim Ducks. Henrik Sedin took home the Cyrus H. McLean award as the Canucks’ leading scorer and will keep it unless Daniel manages to score 6 points on Saturday against the Oilers without Henrik getting any.

Dan Hamhuis deservedly won the Babe Pratt award for best defenceman, Cory Schneider understandably won the Cyclone Taylor award as the team’s MVP, and Jannik Hansen simultaneously had his praises sung as the team’s Most Exciting Player and was named the team’s unsung hero with the Fred J. Hume award.

That just doesn’t seem like enough awards, so we put together seven more:

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Breakdowning Ryan Kesler’s mess of a game-winning goal versus the Coyotes

Mike Smith was dynamite Monday night, making 40 saves as Vancouver peppered him with chance after chance. The Canucks managed to beat him three times, with two called back — one for goaltender interference and the other for a distinct kicking motion.

Smith was playing so well that you’d expect only the prettiest of goals to beat him. Instead, the Canucks won the game thanks to indecision, falling down, a flubbed shot, and missing an open net.

Quick, skilful passing plays that lead to goals often get described as tic-tac-toe. This play needs an easier child’s game than that: let’s go with Candy Land. Like Candy Land, it was completely random, with no one really deserving to win. Ryan Kesler just happened to draw the right cards to reach Candy Castle and rescue King Kandy first. There’s no glory in that. And yet, Kesler still celebrated the game-winner appropriately: like a three-year-old.

Let’s break down the madness, shall we?

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Zack Kassian no longer grounded; should Canucks have sent him down?

Lost in the excitement of the Canucks’ compelling, dizzying lack of action on trade deadline day was the one roster move they did make, recalling Zack Kassian from their AHL affiliate in Chicago and sending down Bill “The Jet” Sweatt in his place.

The move brought to a close what appears to have been some sort of punishment for off-ice shenanigans, something that Kassian corroborated upon his return, saying that management had stressed “being a professional away from the rink.”

Granted, this somewhat contradicted Alain Vigneault’s earlier explanation that Kassian “went to Chicago basically to play hockey,” but only somewhat. After all, Kassian did go to Chicago to play hockey. That’s what he did while he was there. He evens scored a goal. Of course, the reason he had to go to Chicago to play hockey is because whatever he was up to in Vancouver was enough for him to be grounded from playing hockey here.

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Body movin’: Zack Kassian, Andrew Gordon down, Bill Sweatt, Nicklas Jensen up

On Saturday, the Canucks put in their most lacklustre effort of the season, losing to the Edmonton Oilers in less than 8 minutes. It was a demoralizing loss and, with the trade deadline just a couple days away, many Canucks fans are eager to see Mike Gillis shake things up by making a big move.

On Sunday, the Canucks called up Nicklas Jensen and Bill Sweatt from the Chicago Wolves and sent down Zack Kassian and Andrew Gordon.

It would be a mistake to connect these two days together by anything more than chronology. Fans and media alike were quick to call this a desperation move, but the roster movement doesn’t seem to be sparked by the loss in Edmonton. Instead, it looks like this roster move was caused by something that happened before the game even started.

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Spitballin’ on who will play, who won’t play, and who misread the play

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few topics that deserve mention.

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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.

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