Many people are saying Zack Kassian’s success has come by design – that Willie Desjardins’ unsparing treatment of the big winger is finally yielding its rewards.
But Kassian has scored 5 goals in the 8 games since he was last scratched, and the coach admits he didn’t see it coming.
February 19, the date of that last scratch – it was only three weeks ago – is important because it shows how recently Desjardins had doubts on Kassian. Yet Kassian has now played nine games on the top line with the Sedins and it appears Desjardins is finally starting to see his potential.
Desjardins was on TSN 1040 last night and Scott Rintoul asked if he is trusting Kassian more.
I don’t know if I trust (Kassian) more. I think he’s playing better. I felt earlier in the year I played him when I shouldn’t have – he wasn’t playing the way we wanted, but lately he’s been playing hard.
He’s been doing a number of good things and as a result he’s getting rewarded more.
Desjardins went on to admit that Alex Burrows’ injury was the only reason Kassian was paired with the Sedins in the first place.
I never played (Kassian) with the Sedins because I didn’t think he was a match.
When I moved Zack up, it was just a matter of giving him a couple of games until Burr was healthy and then I’d be putting Burrows back up, but Zack’s done well on that line. He’s done really well.
The way I make decisions is I always try to go with what I think gives us the best chance to win. That’s my bottom line. Right now, I think Zack’s playing well and he deserves to play there.
So if you thought Desjardins must’ve had it somewhere in his mind to try Kassian with the Sedins at some point this season, think again.
While Desjardins’ inability to see Kassian as a possible linemate for the twins could be ignored under most circumstances, it’s a bit harder given half of Vancouver predicted they’d look as sharp together as Stephen Harper and his Lego hair.
Another thing many have said all along is if Kassian was given decent linemates and a top-six role, he’d perform.
With Desjardins’ admission that “lately (Kassian’s) been playing well,” we might all have to admit that the annoying radio callers, armchair coaches and bloggers were right for once.
Feature Image: Jeff Vinnik – NHL.com