We are almost halfway through the 2013-14 NHL season and it’s time for media outlets to come out with their midway report cards. David Ebner from the Globe and Mail wrote one where he wasn’t completely complimentary of Zack Kassian’s season thus far.
Misses: Zack Kassian, David Booth
A project and a weird dude, neither has delivered anything close to what the team needs. But there have been signs of life, and the Canucks’ trajectory could change if a third line anchored by these two somehow comes to life and finds a real scoring punch. So far they have seven fewer points together than Santorelli.
That sparked a long discussion between myself and a couple of other Canucks bloggers (‘Dan the Stat Man’ from Nucks Misconduct and our own Ian Lusher) about whether or not we should be disappointed with Zack Kassian’s season thus far. To summarize the discussion, they were not as disappointed in Kassian’s season because of lack of opportunity and the fact that players that are Kassian’s age just don’t produce at a high rate in the NHL.
I concede that opportunity is a major factor contributing to a player’s point total. Playing with star players and receiving power play time are important and that should be factored in. If Kassian were playing with the Sedins, he would undoubtedly be scoring more often.
It is my belief that Kassian needs to take at least some of the blame that he isn’t getting more prominent ice time. The Canucks have had injuries to forwards this season and opportunities have presented themself. That’s how Mike Santorelli became a fixture as a top 6 forward and Brad Richardson has become a reasonably dependable third line centre. While it’s true that head coach John Tortorella has stated that he doesn’t want to put Kassian in a tough position on the first line, he would put Kassian there if he was playing better.
Taking everything into account, I’m disappointed that Kassian has as many points as Dale Weise and fewer points than 5 defencemen (including Ryan Stanton and Chris Tanev). Of course, points aren’t everything, and that doesn’t help Kassian’s case either. He has only 34 shots on goal in 33 games and isn’t exactly a defensive dynamo. He is physical, but doesn’t do it as consistently as I would like.
So how does Kassian stack up against his peers? Here is a list every NHL skater born in 1991 (minimum 20 games played) and their production this season:
Of course there are mitigating circumstances with some of these players listed above. But I think we are making a lot of excuses for Kassian if we try to act like his season has been a successful one thus far. He has more points than only two other 22 year old forwards on this list.
For a historical perspective, lets look at how young Canucks skaters have fared in a Canucks uniform and where Kassian ranks. Here are the stats since 2000-01:
Of course the players listed above have all sorts of different circumstances affected their point totals also. The Sedins received second unit power play time as young players, but were also playing during the dead puck era. Conversely, Matt Cooke and Artem Chubarov didn’t receive any power play time and played primarily in a checking role. I omitted most defencemen off this list, but included Alex Edler’s because of how impressive they are.
I haven’t given up on Zack Kassian and I don’t think anyone else should either. Power forwards can take some time to come into their own, so the team will need to be patient with Kassian. He has been better of late and will likely have a better second half of the season.
But lets call a spade a spade. He hasn’t been impressive this year.