So, the Edmonton Oilers traded goaltender Ben Scrivens, a young man who is the dictionary definition of a model citizen, to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Zack Kassian, who is without question something less than that. The Oilers traded a good guy for a bad guy. What are we to make of this?

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I don’t know Zack Kassian. I’ve never met him. I’ve never talked to or interviewed him. All I know of him is what I’ve seen, what I’ve read and what I’ve heard. None of which has left me, to understate, a particularly good impression of him. I don’t like any of it.

What we know is Kassian busted Sam Gagner’s jaw with a careless high stick in a pre-season game while a member of the Vancouver Canucks. What we know is that, in a return game with the Oilers during the regular season, he taunted Gagner about the injury he inflicted and compounded that by refusing to fight Luke Gazdic, who was looking for retribution.

What we know is Kassian was injured in an early morning wreck last October involving a truck he was riding in. That incident landed Kassian in the hospital with a broken foot and other injuries and in the second stage of the NHL’s substance abuse program. What we know is Kassian was involved in a bar fight and charged with assault during the 2010 off-season.

What we know is Kassian completed the program after the latest incident, was cleared to play Dec. 15 and was placed on waivers and told not to report to the AHL. The Habs didn’t want him. Now, as we learned today via a very brief news release, Kassian is an Oiler, acquired for Scrivens. He’ll report to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.

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Given what we know about Kassian, it’s easy to mount one’s high horse and ride off into the sunset of outrage and indignation. He’s a ruffian, a cowardly one at that, with a substance abuse problem. On top of that, Kassian has been tagged as a lazy, coach-killing under-achiever. What is Peter Chiarelli doing, acquiring a bad act like that?

The other end of the spectrum is to dismiss what we’ve seen, read and heard about Kassian’s off-ice issues. You know, he’s a young guy having some fun who made some mistakes . . . That line of thinking is swayed, of course, by the fact that Kassian might prove to be a pretty good player if he ever figures things out and applies himself. He’s big. He has some skill. If you can land that kind of commodity for an AHL goaltender with a save-percentage in the .800s and no future in the organization, you take a chance.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I thought Kassian looked like a clown when he mocked Gagner. I thought him a coward when he refused to fight Gazdic, but that’s tied mainly to my inclination to believe that you better expect, and be ready, to answer the bell after you bust somebody’s face with your stick, not skulk away and mock the guy you injured.

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For me, the off-ice issues are the bigger concern. If booze is the problem it appears to be with Kassian, it’s a tough monkey to get off your back, even if you’re willing and committed to getting help. There have been many inspiring stories scripted by those who manage it. There have been many tragic failures, too. 


In the end, Kassian is a reclamation project. The Oilers took a chance on Craig MacTavish back in 1985 and it paid off. That doesn’t lessen or undo the damage done, but it does show people can turn things around if they are committed to making the most of a second chance.

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I’d like to think Chiarelli has done his due diligence on Kassian and that there is a reasonable expectation he’s ready and willing to turn a corner and become one of those success stories. I’d like to think Chiarelli and the Oilers will monitor every move Kassian makes – on and off the ice – to ensure he stays on the straight and narrow. In the end, it’s up to the player.

If Kassian does that, maybe what’s essentially a minor league deal, a long shot, turns into a success story. Maybe the Oilers get a good player for a goaltender who isn’t in the plans. If Kassian cannot or will not commit, then the Oilers cut him loose and wish him well. I hope for the former but expect the latter.   

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.


  • Spurzey

    If Kassian works his ass of and becomes a 3 line or better right winger, it opens up the possibility to trade a certain very soft righty for the stud dman we so badly need.

  • M22

    I’m gonna leave the character issues aside, because from that perspective I hate this.

    From a perspective of wanting to see each and every human being reach their potential and to begin anew, I would think that Kassian would see this as one the greatest opportunities in his career.

    A career that was all but finished a few days ago.

    He can take this opportunity by the horns and surpass all of our expectations. It’s all on him. I think he has it in him to play on the top two lines. It’s a long shot, but possible.

    More realistically, he may be a solid 3rd 4th line guy who can push some offense.

    Also possible is the outcome where he doesn’t get his life together.

    But this is more than a clean slate. A clean slate is joining a team like the Jackets, or the Hurricanes. This, for him, is an opportunity of a lifetime.

  • Harry2

    Kassian’s contract status in very confusing. Hopefully somebody can clear this up.

    According to http://stats.nhlnumbers.com/players
    kassian was RFA at the end of this season with the Habs.

    But it says he is RFA at the end of next season with the oilers.

    Does this mean the oilers added a year for 2mill to his contract?? That does not seem to make sense.

    Im sure this will get clarified soon, if it has not been already.

  • oilerjed

    it amazes me how judgemental people can be when they are on the outside. Drug problem, not your problem. Bar fight, you would pat your buddies on the back if they came out of one unscathed. Bad in dressing rooms, cancer…………. since I can virtually guarantee that NONE of us has any first hand information about this, how can you have an honest opinion.

    Facts: opens goaltending spot on bakersfield roster, brings on player who is very easily booted to the curb at years end. Can be sent home anytime with no consequence to anyone but Katz.

    Why do people take this kind of crap so serious??

  • Spydyr

    Relax you guys, the deal is done, sit back and give the guy a chance. ZK might be a good piece to the puzzle. He might have gotten his act together and might be ready to add grit and goals.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    nhlnumbers has kassian as RFA 16/17 under the two entries for montreal. RFA 17/18 for the single entry for edmonton. I click on players and then filter by kassian. Really wish i could post a screen clip to show it.

    Anyway, the mtl entries im assuming are the correct and somehow they botched the edm entry.

  • M22

    Wow! A lot of people getting waaaaaay to emotional about a minor-league transaction. That’s right. This player is to report to Cali to try and turn his career/ and perhaps his life,or a big part of it around. Whether he can or not…time will tell.Let’s wish him well. As fAR as the nonsense from the past with ZK and Gagner..and perhaps others..it is in the past, so let’s leave it there. This young man will have alot to prove to himself and the Edmonton Oilers before he is trusted to play on this team. Could be a great story if it all turns out well. And if it doesn’t. ..I really doubt he will be in the fold long enough to do any irreparable damage to the organization.

    • lucky

      Here’s the thing. Hall’s team. Any discussion of bringing a Kassian into the mix goes no further if Hall doesn’t think it can work. Chiarelli knows this.

  • OilHub

    Wow Pouzar
    I have been a loyal fan since 80′ and care for this team as much as anyone else choosing to spend time reading the blogs on this site.
    I too was furious over the Stick incident and hoped he would have been man enough to step up after the incident. Have you ever done anything you regretted, ZK was admittedly abusing substances back then, did you see the Ebs interview today, you might want to watch that.
    I want the Oilers to win as much as you do and if the man the Oilers hired to steer the ship decided this was a chance he wanted to take we should wish ZK good luck on the ice and hope he has flushed his demons away.
    Go Oil!!!

  • M22

    Montreal GM Marc Bergevin took a chance on Kassian when trading him for B. Prust not so long ago. When doing the trade, Bergevin already knew his past and his off-ice issues.

    From my point of view, this was Kassian’s last chance. Unfortunately, he didnt manage to play a single game for the Habs for the reasons we know.

    I sincerly hope the best for ZK, not because he’s now part of the Oilers organization but because he’s facing difficult issues.