grumpworsley Posted January 8, 2016 Share Posted January 8, 2016 Here is hoping the big forward can keep his $&!# together http://www.edmontonsun.com/2016/01/07/jones-kassian-says-hell-bring-the-oilers-consistency-and-sandpaper BAKERSFIELD – Zack Kassian’s first shift as a Bakersfield Condor was something to behold. Ryan Holt, the play-by-play voice of the new AHL franchise here had the pleasure of being the man to call it. “It all began when Kellen Jones lost an edge on his skate blade stepping on the ice for the opening faceoff. He hopped off the ice. Another guy jump on the ice. And it all happened so fast that nobody informed the referee,” said Holt. Kassian was minding his business lined up at right wing to start the game. “The San Jose Barracudas called us in it. Starting line-up violation,” the broadcaster told the story. Kassian was called upon to serve the penalty. - Related: Jones - No Kassian in Edmonton for the Oilers before the All-Star break It’s the first game of Zack Kassian’s return to hockey and the storied villain is in the penalty box before the opening faceoff, before a single second of the game has been played. “When the penalty expired, Zack had a scoring opportunity and then laid out Kyle Stollery in the corner,” said Holt stopping just short recreating his call. “Coming back to centre John McCarthy said a couple words to him and Zack didn’t back down. They started pushing and shoving like you see nowadays and the crowd was going bonkers. The fans kind of got to see what Zack brings, what he’s all about, all on the first shift,” Holt added. “That was quite a way to start,” admitted Kassian. “It was funny. They got a good kick out of it on the bench.” - Related: Edmonton Oilers should be a three-headed scoring line monster The penalty before he’d started his re-entry into pro hockey, especially considering his history involving the penalty box, was undeniably humorous. The hit? That just felt good said the player just out of 90 days the NHL’s substance abuse and behavioral health program. “It just happened. When you are actually looking for hits, sometimes they’re tough to come by. When I came out of the penalty box it just happened that the puck was in the right spot and where I was tracking. It was nice to get a big hit for sure.” In Kassian’s second game the next night in Stockton, he scored the Condors only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames new AHL affiliate. “It felt pretty good to get that goal. It was my first goal of the season and the first goal of my new life.” New life, indeed. This is, he admits, “Last Call” for his hockey career. - Related: Montreal Canadiens trade Kassian to Oilers for Scrivens Kassian, sitting on the visitors bench after practice prior to his third and fourth games with the Condors here this weekend against the San Antonio Rampage and Ontario Reign put it all out there in a half hour interview with your correspondent. He identified his substance abuse problem as alcoholism. He identified himself as an alcoholic. He revealed he spent his time in the NHL’s program only about 90 minutes from here at a facility in Malibu. “I was actually here in Bakersfield for practice and then had to leave to get my working visa before I came back for a practice and then the first game,” he said. Kassian, who has such a checkered past that it might be more appropriate to be doing this with the Charlotte Checkers, broke his nose and busted his foot in an accident involving a 20-year-old girl driving and an 18-year-old girl as passenger. He was under the influence when the vehicle hit a tree in Montreal at 6:30 a.m. Suspended without pay by the Canadiens, Kassian was placed in Stage Two of the NHL program and traded to Edmonton for goalie Ben Scrivens when he came out. “Where I was before all this happened wasn’t in a good place,” Kassian said, making eye contact as he spoke. “It was tough emotionally, mentally and even physically. It was draining. And I say that not looking for any sympathy for anyone. I put in a lot of work the last three months. I really think I’m leaving there as a different person. “I’m leaving with a lot of knowledge about alcoholism and I’m ready to take the next step forward. “In no sense am I cured or fixed. But I have a good foundation to build off going forward.” Has he stopped drinking, period? “Yes,” he said. “Yes. “The one thing they stressed to us was one day at a time. It’s kind of overwhelming for a 24 year old to even think 20 or 30 years from now. But the answer is yes.” There’s also the financial factor. Kassian is on a $1.75 million a year contract. If he screws up again, there’s no Edmonton Oilers. One more strike and he’s out. Zero dollars. “There’s quite a bit of motivation,” he admits. “I’m really looking to turn the corner. The one thing I believe throughout all this is that it has really built my character. “It’s something that I had to go through to get it. Finally. Sadly. But I’m very confident that I do have a grasp on it and I am moving forward.” Kassian says he absolutely, completely, totally, 100% understands this is it for him. “Most definitely this is my last chance,” he said. At the same time it’s also a beyond belief great chance considering the opportunity to play with centres like Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or his old Windsor Spitfire Memorial Cup line-mate Taylor Hall. “If you had told me five years ago coming out of junior that this would have been the path I would take I’d never have believed you. “I really want to turn my life around and I really want to make this home,” he said of Edmonton and the Oilers organization that took the gamble on him. “I really want to prove a lot of people wrong. But most of all I want to prove to myself that I can do this – that I can change around. “I’ll be very proud when I do this and a lot of my friends and family will be proud. “That’s what I’m most striving to do. And to get a chance to do it with the Oilers organization, that’s just a bonus. My life comes first. To be able to play with all those great young players up there, I would look at as being a blessing. “I’m looking forward to the challenge first to get up there, to get that call up. And I know if I get that call up it’ll be even harder to stay up there. I’m just looking for an opportunity and then to run with it,” said the player who had two previous stints in the AHL. Kassian played 29 games with the Chicago Wolves in 2012-13, scoring eight goals and producing 21 points with 61 penalty minutes. The season previous he put in 30 games with the Rochester Americans with 15 goals and 26 points and a mere 31 minutes in penalties. In 198 games in the NHL, the first few with the Buffalo Sabres and the rest with the Vancouver Canucks, he scored 35 goals and put up 66 points with 307 minutes of penalties. It is not lost on Kassian that the NHL team providing him with this opportunity is the team that maybe detested him more than any other from his days as a Vancouver Canuck, low-lighted, of course by the Sam Gagner incident when he was suspended for eight games for breaking Gagner’s jaw. “It’s kind of ironic,” he said. “That’s the business we’re in. I’ve found that everywhere in hockey, when you get traded or whatever are always welcoming.” He knows that a big part of it is how he comes in and he’s been more than aware of that here. “Exactly,” he said. “I guess the good thing is that every team I’ve been on everybody seems to have kind of liked me. I’ve always been the goofy guy and the prankster. I’m just going to keep being myself.” Throughout this whole process there’s a lot of self-discovery involved and one of the biggest discoveries Kassian made was how much he loves this game. “As you not only go through the program but also do it during the first half of a hockey season, you have a lot of alone time. That’s when you realize what you love to do, what makes you happy. Once I got some clarity it was first family and then hockey. When you have something taken from you for a period of time and you don’t know if you’re going to get it back, it’s scary. It’s very scary. “It really hits home. It really digs deep and makes you realize that you are the problem. You can point the fingers anywhere you want but that going forward it’s going to be your actions, not words, that are going to speak louder than anything else. That’s what I told Peter,” he said of Oilers G.M. Chiarelli. “I have to show him. Every day. Day by day.” There’s another thought here in all of this. How will all of this affect who Zack Kassian is on the ice? He’s a player you hate to play against who is good enough offensively to be able to play on a scoring line with players like Hall, Nugent-Hopkins or, yes, McDavid. “It’s not going to change anything that way,” Kassian swears. “They have a lot of skill and talent up there. I’m looking to bring some sandpaper. It’s an honour to play in the NHL. It’s an honour to play hockey, period.” What it will change, he hopes, is his consistency. “My consistency was one of the knocks,” he admitted. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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