Zack Kassian of the Vancouver Canucks should be public enemy No. 1 for the Edmonton Oilers after he broke forward Sam Gagner’s jaw with his stick in Sept. 2013 and then mocked Gagner’s protective face shield when the teams met on Dec. 14.
So when the Canucks visited the Oilers on Tuesday night, the expectations were that Kassian would be bruised, battered and beaten. Yet Kassian not only escaped unscathed, he scored the game-winner in the Canucks’ 2-1 victory over the Oil.
So what happened?
Well, Luke Gazdic, Edmonton’s resident pugilist, attempted to engage Kassian during the game, but the Canucks forward refused to fight. Because, you see, he’s an agitator, and the great ones don’t feel it necessarily to satisfy the bloodlust of their opponents. Code, schmode – enjoy your frustration.
So that leaves Edmonton two options: Ignore him or assault him.
“What, jump him? And [get] suspended? You guys are the same ones that jump all over guys that do stuff like that,” said defenseman Andrew Ference to the media after the game, in reference to Gazdic.
“If he doesn’t want to fight, he doesn’t want to fight. You guys will be the first ones to rip on a guy for doing that,” he continued. “So he’s going to go over and punch him, and what are you going to say? ‘He’s a dirty player.’”
Oilers Coach Dallas Eakins was also asked about retribution against Kassian. As expected, he cited the close game as a primary reason why Kassian wasn’t mugged.
“To go out of our way in a close game, to go seek retribution and take a dumb penalty, I don’t know how that helps us. Is that what you’re alluding to? I’m really curious,” asked Eakins (via the Oilers website audio).
“I saw talk between a guy on our team that handles that very well and that player, and one player wasn’t willing to engage. I’m not quite sure what else you can do. You can go jump him. Slash him, cross check him in the face, but I’m not sure what that does when it’s a close game.”
And then Eakins went … there.
“I want our guys to stand up for each other. I don’t want us to be known as a team that … you can find yourself in a load of trouble. A LOAD of trouble. 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,’ and something happens, then you can find yourself in a load of trouble. You guys wouldn’t be in trouble. You’d write about the trouble. But we’d be in a lot of trouble.”
Yes. Yes they could be.
Said Eakins: “We have to be very, very careful in seeking retribution.”
That said … Kassian’s totally messing with the Oilers again next game, right?