Habs’ Zack Kassian: Hot Water Or Bad Luck?

Photo: Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

Photo: Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

The news yesterday was alarming: newly acquired Habs Zack Kassian was involved in a one-car accident in Montreal, at 6:30 in the morning. Seeing photos of the truck didn’t help; it was pretty badly damaged.

kassian truck

Photo Courtesy Steve Petrenko, Twitter

Details emerged: he was not driving, but was a passenger with an 18-year-old female, the truck driven by a 20-year-old woman. It was immediately reported that speed did not seem to be a factor, but unconfirmed rumors of alcohol began to emerge as the day went on.

Kassian, according to a witness, appeared to be dazed and bloodied. He knew his name but had trouble walking. He was taken to hospital where no further news was released until Monday morning.

Habs’ GM, Marc Bergevin, spoke briefly in a press conference Monday, revealing that Kassian’s injuries include fractures to his nose and left foot. Suffice it to say he won’t be starting the season, though he has not yet been placed on the IR list.

The season is the least of the Talk about Town, though. Bergevin was asked about a possible suspension, but was non-committal, replying that they are examining their options.

Bergevin went on to say that he judges character, and Kassian – out at 6:30 a.m. – made a decision the club doesn’t support:

He assessed the situation as “disappointing, to say the least”, and when asked the question most of us were already wondering yesterday, he replied as expected:

Bergevin was also asked if this should be a wake-up call for Kassian, who has seen off-ice troubles with other teams, and his answer was ominous:

While he was close-lipped about it, stating that they are still gathering information about the incident, many are wondering if the Kassian trade is now something Bergevin regrets. Kassian came to Montreal already having been on two previous teams: the Buffalo Sabres, and the Vancouver Canucks. At 24, it’s not the best place to be, one’s third team, and in his press conference upon arriving in Montreal, he stated his resolve to make a fresh start.

It wasn’t so much his mediocre hockey that has been troubling many fans; it’s his reputation off-ice. Reportedly a party-goer, enjoying the nightlife in Vancouver, and once – his draft year – charged with assault in a bar altercation (the charges were subsequently dropped) – Kassian clearly had a potential recognized by the Habs, one that transcended his past behavior and translated to an asset to the team.

And at least one Vancouver writer – Tony Gallagher –  thought the trade was a bad one for the Canucks:

Trading Zack Kassian to Montreal represents such a shocking failure of player development, it’s almost staggering.

Gallagher blames the Canucks’ training staff for not taking what he sees as raw talent and shaping it into a solid player. He projects that he still doesn’t know how the trade will end up, but it seemed that many in Vancouver were not thrilled to lose Kassian.

Kassian’s record last season – (10 goals, 16 points in only a half season) – was a good sign to many of us who saw those numbers as promising. After all, his third team in four years, a reputation that preceded him, and lack of production – it was only a positive sign that he resolved to make Montreal his home, and to prove that the trade would pay off.

Now, this.

Has it become a Story? This is Montreal. Of course it has.

Is it a Distraction? Depending on the writer, the fan, the analyst, yes and no. It’s a distraction because he is not going to begin the season with the Habs as planned. A fractured foot – depending on the severity of the break – is a weeks-long recovery. Perhaps months.

It’s a distraction because all the old talk of his behavior and reputation have now overshadowed any welcome he might have been feeling since being acquired in July.

Till the accident, he had a fairly good camp, and showed up in pre-season to post the only goal (unassisted) against the Chicago Blackhawks in September.

Is Kassian now a risk the Habs must worry about, even before the season officially begins? Marc Bergevin said this:

A risk in one sense, no risk in another.

For now, until more details are released – about the accident, Kassian’s recovery timeline, and how the team will deal with this – we have nothing to do but wait. And, as is the case with Habs fans, speculate.

On a personal note, I’m disappointed – as I’m sure everyone is. The declaration that this was a fresh start, from the man himself, made Kassian a hope for offensive production on whatever line coach Michel Therrien chose to deploy him, and his numbers seemed promising. I’m more disappointed that it happened, because of The Distraction it has now caused.

But unlike so many, I refuse to pass judgment or jump the gun to conclusion. Here’s why:

  • Kassian was not driving – even if (big “if”) he had been drinking
  • This occurred on a non-practice day
  • There were no games scheduled for 4 days
  • We have no information (that one’s a big one – how can we judge or conclude without details?)

For now, I think we’re better off focusing on other news coming out of the Canadiens’ camp, on the positives of this team, and on the fact that in just two short days, the 2015-16 begins. A fresh slate, a new season, 82 games – plus post-season – stretching out ahead, and hockey once again becoming a daily part of our routines.

Let’s hope this is a quick recovery, and that Kassian returns to the team ready to do what he was hired to do: help the Habs win games.

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