Kassian’s Future Still Up in the Air

The trade deadline has come and gone, but there is one question that has consistently been asked and will likely be asked by many for the remainder of the season: should the Canucks keep Zack Kassian?

Of all the Canucks, Kassian’s name was probably heard the most leading up to and on the trade deadline, which was March 2nd. There were several inquiries about him from other teams and the Canucks appeared to have considered some offers, but instead elected to keep the 24-year old winger.

“Zack has played very well for us the last couple of weeks and we’ve been happy with his play,” Canucks GM Jim Benning told The Vancouver Sun. “He’s stepped up and he’s doing the things we want him to do and he’s been a part of our team winning the past couple of weeks. At the end of the day, nothing made sense to move him.”

In 39 games this season Kassian has nine goals and six assists, with seven of those goals and two of those assists coming in the month of February alone. While Alex Burrows sat out with an injury for the last few games of February, Kassian slotted in on the top line with the Sedins; even with Burrows now back in the line-up, the coaching staff have chosen to keep Kassian with the twins. The question remains of how much longer he will stay there.

Kassian has had similar (brief) goal-scoring stints in previous seasons with the Canucks. In January 2013 he opened the shortened season with five goals in seven games – but then went 20 games before scoring again. In March and April of 2014 he had two goals and six assists in six games (four assists coming in one game), but this was after months of goal droughts of up to 11 games. While Kassian missed December with an injury, this season has held a similar story for him. He scored his second goal of the season on October 21st and his third on February 7th, going 21 games without a goal.

Whatever the reasons are for Kassian scoring now rather then earlier this season, at least he is peaking at a crucial time in the season when the Canucks need to gather points to enter the playoffs comfortably. There had previously been concern that Kassian simply was not trying hard enough; now the Canucks actually have decent depth on forward, so several forwards are competing with each other to break into the line-up (especially with others coming back from injuries), so that might not be as big a concern as before.

Kassian is still young, with room to develop, and he has experienced a lot of change the past few seasons, with a different coach nearly every season who have each had different expectations (in the past three seasons he has played under Alain Vigneault, John Tortorella and Willie Desjardins). He can be a good player and has shown glimpses of the power forward he was projected to become when the Canucks traded Cody Hodgson to Buffalo for him.

However, with unpredictable inconsistency, it would not be a surprise to see Kassian’s name come up once again in trade talk come the off-season, even if the remainder of the season goes well. Sometimes he is an excellent goal scorer, but most the time he is non-existent (except for when he takes penalties). The Canucks need to decide whether or not the short-term gains from Kassian out-way the long-term losses, and whether or not they can afford to wait a few more years for him to possibly develop more.