The Province

A kick start from Kassian

The developing forward deserves a shot with the slumping Sedins

- Tony Gallagher SPORTS COMMENT tgallagher@theprovinc­

There has been lots of discussion as to the levels of success coach John Tortorella has or has not enjoyed in his first year as coach of the Vancouver Canucks, and of course there are many different opinions.

Some say the blizzard of injuries has clouded any assessment; others might not be so charitable, claiming his approach has brought about at least some of the hurts this team has incurred.

But no matter how you might assess his progress, and given this team isn’t really in a playoff position on a points-per-game basis, you can’t be too effusive in your praise.

For there are still a couple of glaring soft (almost blind) spots we see every game that the commentato­rs have simply grown tired of pointing out despite this team’s ongoing labours to score goals and entertain it’s fans: topline production and the power play.

We all understand the focus has switched from freewheeli­ng team to one that tries to scratch out wins with low scores, but there’s no reason they couldn’t improve the productivi­ty of both the No. 1 line and the power play, particular­ly now that Henrik Sedin has returned.

Consider a couple of facts. Henrik has no points in seven games and no goals in 18. Daniel has no points in 10 games and no goals in 20.

And as we all know, Alex Burrows is 0-for-the-season as a goal scorer.

Now, Zack Kassian scored five goals in the first seven games of last season playing with the twins, yet this season the mere suggestion that perhaps it might be worth playing him with the twins for a while has brought out a stream of indirect invective directed at Kassian’s defensive shortcomin­gs.

But in the shutout Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues, who went into that affair having scored 50 more goals than Vancouver in two fewer games, Kassian was on the ice for the same shutout as the twins, playing with David Booth and Brad Richardson against the David Backes line for much of the night.

Has he not yet made any progress defensivel­y? If not, why not? What’s wrong with the coaching staff that they can’t get him straighten­ed out to the point where he’s no longer such a big risk that he couldn’t possibly get a try with the twins?

The Canucks have essentiall­y said they’re teaching Kassian a lesson in how to mature on a team as a player, and that they don’t want to give him too much too soon and actually hurt his developmen­t. But they might be teaching themselves right out of playoff contention.

Would it not be worth at least a try, at least a game or two or three, to see if there is any way there might just be a shade of chemistry between them — even if it’s only short-lived — particular­ly given the coach was saying Thursday “for us to get where we want to go we’re going to have to get some production.”

If the line goes all to hell defensivel­y, well and good, the Canucks might have proven their point. But just what if the Sedins actually made an offensive contributi­on? Can you imagine the excitement? The fans might actually wink in delight — by opening one eye.

For his part, Kassian is still playing the loyal soldier, sticking to the script which reads: “Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir.” And why wouldn’t he? The last young guy who complained about the traditiona­l abuse given to young players in this organizati­on got traded to Buffalo.

“We’ve got some really good players and it’s part of the media’s job to critique things, and especially when we’re not winning games, they look at guys who are not scoring goals. But we’re going into this final stretch of the season thinking defence first. As a third line, me, Richie (Richardson) and Boothie are playing well, and I’m not going to try to pinpoint where I should be playing.”

Ever the good soldier is Kassian, but at some point no matter how good this team is playing defensivel­y, you would think it’s going to have to do a little better than 24th in goals-for and 12 goals in its last eight games if they plan on making the playoffs.

 ?? — THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES ?? The Sedins are struggling, so why not give Zack Kassian, left, a shot with Daniel and Henrik where he thrived in the early going last season?
— THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES The Sedins are struggling, so why not give Zack Kassian, left, a shot with Daniel and Henrik where he thrived in the early going last season?
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