Author: Jason Brough

Zack Kassian

Kassian vows to give it all for Habs: ‘As you grow older, you mature’


“My time in Vancouver, deep down I feel I could have given more and I think they knew that.”

If there was one quote that left Canucks fans shaking their heads yesterday, that was probably it. Zack Kassian admitted that he didn’t give it 100 percent.

It’s been suggested that Canucks management should take much of the blame for Kassian’s failure to develop into an impact player, on a team that desperately needed him to be one. But, ultimately, it’s up to the player to fulfill his own potential.

Now a member of the Montreal Canadiens, the 24-year-old is vowing to apply the lessons he learned in both Buffalo, which drafted him 13th overall in 2009, and Vancouver, which traded Cody Hodgson to get him in 2012.

“It’s a tough league. As you grow older, you mature,” Kassian said Thursday.

“I really feel like Montreal’s a great fit for me. I’m ready to do everything to help the team win. I’m excited to get there. At the end of the day, nobody wants to get traded two times. But it’s a learning curve.”

For the record, Kassian says his back is fine: “Everything’s good, very healthy.”

He also rejected the notion that he’s been miscast as a big, tough power forward: “I can play physical, I can grind it, I like the cycle game. But at the same time, I like to make plays. I like to score goals. I think when I’m at my best, I can kind of do both.”

The Canadiens did not take a huge gamble on Kassian. They gave up popular forward Brandon Prust, but he’s 31 and only a year away from unrestricted free agency. Kassian is the one with the upside. And besides, the Canucks threw in a fifth-round draft pick. 

“There’s a reason why players are available, but I’ve talked to the young man and we’ve done our homework,” Habs GM Marc Bergevin said“We believe that he has potential.”

Of course, that’s what they said in Buffalo and Vancouver.

We’ll see what happens in Montreal.

It may be Kassian’s last chance.

Bruins sign Beleskey for five years, despite some warning signs


The Boston Bruins want to get back to playing Bruins hockey.

They also want to score more goals.

For those two reasons, the signing of Matt Beleskey makes sense. The 27-year-old winger was among Anaheim’s leaders in hits last season, plus he chipped in 22 goals, then eight more in the playoffs.

But here’s why the Bruins are taking a risk in reportedly giving the unrestricted free agent a five-year commitment, with a cap hit of $3.8 million:

Beleskey scored on 15.2 percent of his shots in 2014-15. Which was a good thing. But his career rate is 9.9, suggesting he may have picked a really profitable season to have some shooting luck.

It’s also possible that skating mostly with Ryan Kesler, plus a fair bit with Ryan Getzlaf, helped Beleskey’s numbers. In 329 career NHL games, Beleskey only has 57 goals.

Look, let’s just say people were saying similar things about UFA David Clarkson, right before Clarkson signed that disastrous contract with the Leafs.

Maybe the Beleskey signing works out a lot better for the Bruins. At the very least, the cap hit and term are considerably less onerous than Clarkson’s. Plus, the Bruins aren’t the Leafs. And if Beleskey gets time with Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci, he’ll be in a position to succeed.

As always on July 1, only time will tell.

Related: Beleskey rejects Ducks’ offer, headed to free agency

Kessel trade shows Leafs are trying to ‘build this thing the right way’

Official Announcement Of Mike Babcock As Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach

In the words of Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, here’s why Phil Kessel was traded today:

“This is really about a recognition on our part that what we’ve been doing here, and the group that we’d assembled here, wasn’t getting the job done, and it wasn’t good enough.

“We are here to build a team that is capable of winning a Stanley Cup. There are no shortcuts to go around doing that. We didn’t see that this group was going to get a whole lot better, in getting us toward that goal.

“Going out and hiring a coach like Mike Babcock was a huge bonus for us, so this was really about us saying, once again, we’ve got to build this thing the right way, through the draft, with prospects. Sometimes that might take a little bit longer.”

So basically the same thing Shanahan said in April, and the same thing Babcock said in May.

While Shanahan conceded today that they “gave up a heck of a player…a very, very productive player,” Kessel is also 27 years old. Theoretically, by the time the Leafs hit their sweet spot in terms of competing for the Cup (assuming they ever do), Kessel will be past his prime, if he’s not already. 

Going forward, expect the Leafs to continue dismantling their flawed core. Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, and maybe even James van Riemsdyk; they could all be traded.

And any others that don’t fit into the club’s long-term plans, them too.

Related: Babcock lays down the law — ‘Anything that’s been going on is going to get cleaned up’