When Zack Kassian arrived in Vancouver, one of the first words out of his mouth was the following:
They’ve got a great team here, and I’m just going to try to be a small piece in a big puzzle.
Oh Zack, we all know that’s not going to be possible in this hockey fishbowl.
Since he arrived on the scene, fans have been watching closely, scrutinizing and analyzing every little detail of his game. There have been bright moments, like his first three games as a Canuck, where he combined for 16 hits, a goal, and an assist. His fight with Brad Staubitz against Montreal and his skirmish with Duncan Keith in Chicago also stand out.
There are the naysayers, too. On some nights, Kassian has been stapled to the bench during crucial moments. Part of that has to do with Alain Vigneault’s unwillingness to play young players when the game’s on the line, and part of it has to do with Kassian’s play has been somewhat inconsistent.
On occasion, he has that gusto where he looks like he’ll take a player’s head off. On others, he’s losing puck battles in corners and slower than Steve Bernier.
But perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of Zack Kassian’s game is the intimidation factor he has when he’s on the ice. He has a presence, one which the team cannot say they boasted before.
When Kassian is on the ice, opponents are aware of it. Put together on a line with Mason Raymond and Henrik Sedin, neither player gets bogged down in a post-whistle scrum when Kassian is out there. If either Raymond or Sedin gets shoved around, Kassian enters the scrum and all of a sudden it gets dead quiet. Everyone shuts up and moves along.
That can be a very powerful weapon in the playoffs.
Against Chicago, Kassian challenged every single Blackhawk on the ice, and no one wanted to drop the gloves. That’s the kind of power and intimidation very few teams can buy. Kassian is feared, and in the playoffs, he can provide the kind of spark the Canucks will need when the going gets tough.
So don’t just take notice of what Kassian is doing in the game. Notice his game within the game, because that can be equally important.