Because of the result of one game it’s now clear that the Canucks "championship window" has closed. The ascendant Oilers, who have improved enough as a team to play a good club, still finding their sea-legs and missing their two best forwards at five-on-five to a functional draw, are obviously the new heavyweights in the Northwest division.
It’s going to be an adjustment period for Canucks fans now, and we would be well served to start focussing and taking pride on pettier things than, say, "winning games" or "making the playoffs" and turn our attention instead to "team toughness" and "prospect wealth" like the fans of crappy teams do.
Unfortunately "Canucks" and "prospect wealth" have an oxymoronic relationship, so "team toughnesss" is going to have to do. On that front 21-year old power-forward Zack Kassian, one of only seven Canucks roster players who have played regular competitive games over the past four lockedout months, answered the bell in a big way for the Canucks during Sunday night’s shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
So let’s take a minute to revel in that shining moment, and conveniently ignore Edler’s defensive struggles on the right-side and the team’s inability to control proceedings at even-strength. Luckily for us, official Canucks photographer Jeff Vinnick took some fantastic shots of the fight (via NHL.com). Click past the jump for more.
Let’s begin by watching the fight courtesy the indispensible Hockeyfights.com:
Of the fight, 61.5% of HockeyFights.com voters declared Zack Kassian the winner – presumably on the strength of the four straight lefts that Kassian lands to begin the tilt, and not because of the young winger’s ability to throw punches behind his head, while falling down, at a guy throwing haymakers at the back of his skull. Though really, he should get some style points credit for that.
Ultimately Kassian’s fight (and his goal) impressed Tony Gallagher, while Daniel Wagner smartly noted that Kassian would’ve been wise to try and take advantage of Ben Eager not being very good at hockey while taking a shift with the Sedins late in a tie hockey game as opposed to dropping the gloves.
But who cares, really? To most Canucks fans Ben Eager is just a "punk" and obviously a lot of folks enjoyed seeing him get rag-dolled a bit. Also, Kassian might be the first Canucks skater with the ability to do something like that since, well, probably since Rick Rypien’s last game in blue, white and green.
Let’s go to the photo record now, because Jeff Vinnick got some awesome shots of the fight (I’d like to take a moment and mention that the return of Vinnick’s photos is an under-rated benefit of the resumption of NHL hockey).
Obviously out of context photographs
can be are totally misleading, but I’m mailing in a post so I won’t let it stop me. It looks like Eager was in trouble right at the outset of the fight,. his eyes are closed, and he appears to be off balance as he gropes to try and get a hold on Vancouver’s beastly young winger. You might notice that Eager has a firmer grip on Kassian’s right arm (though Kassian looks like he’s got some serious fish-hook potential in this pose), than he does on Kassian’s left – something that would cost Ben Eager a few pints of blood by fight’s end.
Zack Kassian’s trademark snarl and also his parodic hockey teeth – which are glorious enough to have been mocked by NBC hack Jay Leno – are on full display in ths photo. For that matter so is the fact that Eager had no answer for Kassian’s left early in the fight, though he did manage to recover somewhat toward the fight’s latter stages.
As a Canucks fan, I never really thought I’d feel sorry for Ben Eager. There’s just too much water under the bridge, like, this chickenshit body slam on Bieksa, or this filthy hit on Daniel Sedin, or this posturing after scoring on Luongo in the playoffs. But looking at this photo and knowing that Eager is about to taste a four hit combo of fist to his face well… yeah I still don’t really feel for him.
Which brings us to the "money shot," the photo that the broadcast camera’s missed but Vinnick caught – because he’s outrageously good at his job, you guys.
Yep, pretty awesome.
I’m not a guy who particularly enjoys fighting in hockey at this point. While a fight like the one between Mike Rupp and Shawn Thornton on Saturday evening will still give my reptile brain a sordid rush, with what we know now about concussions, hockey fights admittedly make me somewhat queasy. Certainly I don’t believe that employing an enforcer helps "protect" your star players, or does anything really but waste a roster spot. Of course, Kassian isn’t an one-dimensional enforcer type and in fact he certainly looked like a legitimate top-six forward on Sunday.
So yeah, obviously two points is better than beating up on a bottom-six forward like Ben Eager. But in the absence of the former, I suppose I’ll take the latter. Over to you Kassian:
.Gif Credit: Bieksler.