Fans of the Vancouver Canucks are a diverse lot. There are those that love Roberto Luongo with a passion that borders on the flat out creepy, just as there are as many or more who would like nothing else than to see him hung by his feet from the middle of the Lion’s Gate Bridge until seagulls pecked him to bleached, white bones. Things are just about the same with virtually every player on the roster except for Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and maybe Dan Hamhuis and Alex Burrows.
For sheer hatred, though, no other player seems to generate the volume of vitriol that 21 year-old Zack Kassian does. His greatest sin?
Well, not being Cody Hodgson seems to be his biggest problem, but the most vocal Vancouver fans seem to have written him off as a worthless bum not fit to wear the blue, green and white. This not only unfair, but cruel as well.
Acquired with Marc-Andre Gragnani from Buffalo in exchange for offensively gifted centre Hodgson and spare defenceman Alexander Sulzer, Kassian arrived in Vancouver at the trade deadline and immediately fans expected him to fill the net and pound opposition tough guys into a bloody pulp. Not surprisingly, he played sparingly, scored rarely and seemed reluctant to engage in the kind of hooliganism the mouthbreathing fans expected. The message boards and sports talk radio callers jumped on him as well as on GM Mike Gillis, who was to blame for such a lopsided, brutal trade. Kassian, however, deserves a fair shake.
To begin with, it is rare for any player coming to a new team at the deadline to have an immediate impact. Quite apart from being dropped into an entirely new system, with new coaches, teammates and expectations it takes time for anybody to adjust, much less a 21 year-old kid. Most of Kassian’s meanest critics, for example, are still several birthdays away from 21, or so it appears. Imagine being told tomorrow that you were being transferred half a continent away and were to report for duty the next day, and, by the way, were expected to outperform most or all of the other employees.
Imagine, too, that you had to find a place to live, arrange your financial affairs, figure out where to buy groceries and other daily necessities. How are you going to get your car to where you’ve been sent? How do you go about moving your furnishings, or terminate your lease or rental agreement or, worse, sell your house? How do you leave your network of friends behind and go to where you know nobody? Some of Kassian’s critics may have experienced this, but we suspect the vast majority are still sitting in the basements of their parent’s homes, glued to their computer screens until dawn, looking for new ways to express their bountiful knowledge of managing an NHL team.
The so-called fans who criticize Kassian so relentlessly write things like why can’t he be as good or better than the Sedins, or Ryan Kesler, or Burrows? Why can’t he be at least as productive as Jannik Hansen, Alex Edler or even their other favourite whipping boy, Mason Raymond? A little history is in order here.
Burrows didn’t crack the 20-goal mark until his fourth full season. It took Hansen four years to even hit the 10-goal mark. Kesler, only a season removed as Selke Trophy recipient for best defensive forward on the league, took four years before he topped 50 points in a season. Raymond took three years to hit 20 goals, but hasn’t since, so is now widely considered useless, which is also unfair but the topic of some future blog. Edler also took four years to reach 40 points, and all of the above mentioned players spent time in the AHL before becoming regulars in the NHL.
Last, but very definitely not least, are the Sedins, both Art Ross winners as the league’s top scorers. Daniel scored 20 as a rookie, but it took him four more seasons to get back to the 20-goal level. Henrik, widely considered to be in the top two or three playmakers in the game, took four seasons to even reach the 40 point mark. The point of all of this apparently trivial statistical information is that to expect Kassian to be an instant 20-goal, or 40-point player isn’t realistic, given the history of the team and its current best players. It might be two or even three seasons before he earns enough ice time to even be in the conversation about team scoring stars.
It is a given that Kassian, along with every young Canuck, was given homework to perform over the summer. He will have been given instructions for training and conditioning and clear expectations for his role on the team this coming season. If he is an apt student and a dedicated athlete, he will be a better, more focused and more productive player. But he won’t be a star yet, and, sadly, it might be a couple of years before he is forgiven the sin of not being Cody Hodgon. But, he is worth the wait, and as long as so-called fans appreciate him for what he is rather than hate him for what he isn’t, things should turn out fine.
Edited by playboi19, 13 July 2012 - 07:39 PM.