Canucks' Kassian only young gun guaranteed a spot
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder (20) defends against Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian (9) during the third period at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 4-2 Mar 23, 2014 in Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY) Sports
A few seasons back in this column I warned that the Los Angeles Kings were a mean piece of business and basically the West Coast’s version of the then-reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
This season, when we look at the Western Conference standings, it's the St. Louis Blues that are distancing themselves from the pack. If any team reminds me of the Bruins this year, it's the big, fast and deep Blues.
Now we peek over to the east and see that the Bruins are in full cruise control and looking every bit as strong as the team that raised the cup in 2011. Apparently, emulating the Boston way is still the most effective route to build in today's NHL.
As I look at the team Canucks GM Mike Gillis has refurbished since his team’s 2011 run, I see just one player who has fit his mantra, "We want to get younger, faster and stronger." By my count, he's the only young gun — or as Gillis put it yesterday on Team 1040, "a project" — guaranteed a spot come next season.
That's Zack Kassian.
To their credit, the team has lived with a lot of his mistakes. Kassian scored his 12th goal of the season Wednesday night in Minnesota and I think it's fair to say not many of them were easy tap-ins set up by either of the top-two centres. So a bigger role should equate to bigger numbers.
According to @jay_vancity: “12 goals for Kassian is not bad, considering he has been playing in the bottom six most of the year. He should get a look on PP #canucks.”
Next season, everyone and their dog will have the bar for Kassian set at 20-plus goals. If he reaches that and continues to play right on that physical edge the Canucks win the trade.
Of course, if management doesn't either acquire or promote more younger, faster, stronger players then the Kassian-for-Cody-Hodgson swap may be all they win.