Fans of “old-time hockey” should be delighted by the boiling disdain between Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk. Kassian spoke with the media following his two-game suspension on Tuesday, and the trash talk keeps getting better. Kassian tossed out plenty of gems, including that Tkachuk “messed with the wrong guy” and that the pest will “get his.”
The media also latched on to a glorious bit of scheduling symmetry. The Edmonton Oilers host the Calgary Flames on Jan. 29 … Kassian’s first game back from that suspension. If bloodthirsty fans aren’t sated, realize this: the two teams meet again in Calgary on Feb. 1.
You can observe Kassian’s full press conference in the video above this post’s headline.
Kassian says Tkachuk will need to ‘answer the bell’
Consider a few of the best cuts amid Kassian’s many gems:
- While Kassian said he respects the NHL’s decision, he also said he’d do it again.
- The NHL did not suspend Tkachuk for two controversial hits on Kassian, with ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski receiving the league’s explanation that the hits were legal. Kassian referenced George Parros deeming Tkachuk’s hits as legal multiple times, particularly begging for ominous music to play in the background.
After speaking with Parros on the phone he explained why the hit is not dirty. That cleared up a lot and gave me some clarity on what you can and can’t do, and I put that in the memory bank,” Kassian said, via Jason Gregor’s transcript at Oilers Nation. ” … To me those are two dangerous hits.
If they are clean, they are still predatorial, which is completely fine. I am a big boy, I love big boy hockey, but if you are going to play big boy hockey you have to answer the bell sometime.”
- Kassian also used the phrase “answer the bell.” Quite often. As in, you almost expect a freeze frame where Zack Morris speaks to the studio audience about “The Battle of Alberta.” The real questions: which Flames/Oilers are Screech and A.C. Slater? (Maybe T.J. Brodie is A.C.?)
- Kassian said he received about 20 text messages of support, some from people he doesn’t know. The implication is clear: lots of people don’t like Tkachuk. Shocking. You think Drew Doughty sent a few emojis Kassian’s way?
Will Tkachuk get the better of Kassian in the ways that matter — again?
Yes, Tkachuk got ragdolled. From a meathead perspective, it might have stung his pride.
But pointing at the scoreboard can be the best insult in sports at times, and Tkachuk could make that gesture. The Flames ended up scoring the decisive power-play goal on Kassian’s penalties. It’s classic pest one-upping: baiting an angry opponent into foolish mistakes. Tkachuk is talented and great at getting under opponents’ skin, to the point that it might be better not to engage.
That doesn’t seem to be the plan for Kassian … yet he’s aiming for better execution.
” … I have to be a bit smarter. I have to be on the ice in important games,” Kassian said, via Gregor. “Now that I know how the league sees hits … When you play Calgary it is a different rule book. You have to play the game within the game and sometimes you have to give them a taste of their own medicine.”
The thing is, if Kassian and Tkachuk both ended up in the penalty box for matching minor infractions, that would be great for Edmonton. The Flames need Tkachuk on the ice, tasking him with walking that line. Kassian failed in finding that balance, at least so far.
You have to wonder: should Oilers coach Dave Tippett try to steer Kassian in a smarter direction? If history repeats itself, the Flames would get the advantage again. Considering how close these teams are in the standings, Edmonton cannot afford to take penalties just so a pesky star “gets his.”
Kassian said that this rivalry is creating a buzz, and he’s right that this is fun. The Oilers risk feeling hungover when they look at the standings when the buzz wears off, though.
Oh, and guess what? The two teams also close out the regular season in Edmonton on April 4. The “Battle of Alberta” and Kassian vs. Tkachuk are wars that are just beginning.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.