Zack Kassian has been one of the Edmonton Oilers most enigmatic players and his slow start this year has got people talking.
He started the year on the first-line scoring an assist in the first game of the season but struggled to do much else. He oftentimes looks unengaged, out of place and missing that spark. He got demoted down to the third-line, and admittedly, he has looked better.
But the Oilers signed him to a four-year, $3.2-million contract last year and simply put, his production hasn’t matched his expectations.
His isolated impacts, according to hockeyviz.com, show he’s contributing at a league-average rate offensively, and two percent below league average defensively. He’s struggling to drive play and his 5×5 goals for rate of 40% is below his 46.60 xGF%.
And on top of all of that, he’s only got three points in 12 games — a 21 point pace over a full 82 game season. He’s being paid as if he played alongside Connor McDavid for the last two years and scored above his average career shooting percentage.
What happened to the Zack Kassian that was a stud for the Oilers in the 2017 playoffs? Where he was engaged physically every shift, laying big hits and making plays. Sure, he only scored three goals in those 13 playoff games, but he brought much more than that on a nightly basis.
And on Monday morning, his coach called him out.
"We'd like to see him get more engaged in games. That's kind of an understatement." — Dave Tippett on Zack Kassian, who has just two minor penalties in 12 games thus far.
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) February 8, 2021
It’s a scathing call out from Tippett, who isn’t exactly known for doing this. Kassian is in dire need of finding his game, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later. The Oilers overpaid Kassian both in term, and in length, and while he’s a feel-good story for turning his life around, the truth of the matter is he isn’t bringing it on the ice.
Tonight and tomorrow night’s road games against the Ottawa Senators will surely be interesting to watch as we look to see how Kassian responds.