Zack Kassian was acquired from the Sabres three seasons ago at the trade deadline, with the Canucks taking another shot in their unending quest to find a (better) RW to play with the Sedin brothers. At the time, it was thought that maybe the Sabres had rushed him to the NHL, that maybe he should have played more in the AHL, but it was hoped that the 'change of scenery' might be what makes him click.
In hindsight, the Canucks should have sent him down to the minors themselves while they still could, before he'd need to pass waivers. There were a lot of growing pains, whispers about off-ice problems, clashes with the coach and/or management. Maybe now that he's gone the journos will spill the beans on some of that stuff.
But what's clear is that Zack Kassian has hockey skill, he's talented. He can score goals, he can pass, there are some great highlights of his on YouTube, see for yourself.
Unfortunately, Canucks fans are forever waiting for the 'next Cam Neely', the 'next Todd Bertuzzi'. Zack Kassian didn't immediately fit in on the Sedin line, he played lower down the lineup, at which point they wanted him to lay waste to humanity. Canucks fans are still scarred by the way the league let the Bruins goon them out of the Stanley Cup, they want big and tough, maybe more than Canadiens fans.
Dale Weise was expected to be an enforcer in Vancouver. Jason Garrison was thought too meek and mild to some tastes. Zack was expected, by the fans at least, and also due to the roster construction, to face off against the Derryk Engellands and the Brian McGrattans. He was their size, after all.
The thing that can help him in Montréal is that Michel Therrien wants effort, he wants forecheck, but more than anything he'd rather have the puck than seeing one of his players make a hit. If Zack plays responsibly, and does well when he has the puck, he won't be asked to drive guys through the boards.
There are guys like Jeff Carter or Rick Nash who are big, but don't necessarily play tough, according to Don Cherry. Their size is an asset, if someone tries to intimidate them it's not that easy, but they're also not running around creaming guys, they have better things to do.
If we fans can accept that Zack Kassian isn't the anti-Lucic we all pine for, if we accept that he's a skill player who's really big and who sometimes can get nasty, then we'll have the right expectations and won't be disappointed. And Zack won't feel miscast, like Dale Weise did also in Vancouver.
It's good that he accepted responsibility for his underwhelming turn in Vancouver. Three different coaching staffs found him wanting, so it's not the case of a coach playing favourites. If he can come into camp in better shape, in good spirits, if he can click with some linemates that complement him, we'll compliment him on his great play, and we'll compliment Marc Bergevin for another swindle of the Canucks.
Kassian should have been Vancouver royalty.
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