2015: The Year of the Goat

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Happy lunar New Year! Or as they say in Toronto, “Gone hey, frat boy?”

At least, that’s what they would like to say about everyone’s favourite punching bag in Toronto. And no, that is not a shot at his body type.

Seems like tide has turned at the Centre of the Universe, and they are open to moving pretty much everyone except Morgan Rielly. Not sure if that’s because they recognize he’s a real talent, or maybe they just keep misspelling his name and Morgan Reilly actually is available.

But I digress.

The point is, it looks like Phil Kessel is taking the fall for Leafs. And I’m sure there’s an autumn joke in there somewhere, but I really want to get this back to the Canucks, so let’s talk about our own little goat out here in Canucksville after the jump.

From the sounds of it, the guy everyone loves to love*, Zack Kassian, will be a healthy scratch against the New York Rangers and former Canucks’ bench boss, Alain Vigneault. Much like current head coach, Willie Desjardins, AV didn’t give Kassian much of an opportunity and tried to fit him into that bottom six energy role that I’m just not sure he’s cut out for

But AV is gone, and you certainly can’t blame Kassian for that. Zack just isn’t good enough to bring down a coach on his own, unlike known coach-killer, Kessel. 

I mean, here you had a hard working hockey guy that really knows what it takes to win championships:

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And because some punk can’t even be bothered to skate more than 10 times over the summer, he’s the one that has to pay the price? Clearly Randy was just a scapegoat:

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But at least the Leafs have finally realized the error of their ways and are now ready to deal with their real problems in the dressing room.

But as I said, Kass is no coach-killer. But for whatever reason, he’s having trouble finding the consistency that the Canucks’ coaching staff is looking for. And yes, he’s had his ups and downs, much like the team as a whole. But he was on a nice little swing, scoring three goals and two assists over four games before being a no-show on the scoreboard over the next two. In the last game, on Monday, he was noticeable mostly for two egregious give-aways that led to Wild scoring chances.

The problem, of course, is that he’s just one of a number of players that have been less than stellar for the Canucks this year. But it seems that only Zack gets the healthy scratch treatment. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s just the lack of brains:

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Speaking of flesh-eating viruses, Chris Higgins is one of those guys that seems to get a free pass from Coach Willie. Like Kassian, Higgins has underwhelmed for most of the season, but he has remained in the line-up day in and day out. 

Now, as you Canucks Army readers all know, the eyes can deceive us. While Kassian, Higgins, Vey and heck, even Hansen at times this year, have looked bad, we do need to keep in mind that we are more inclined to notice and remember the bad plays than the little things that go well and contribute to possession. Sure enough, when we look at the 10-game rolling average of scoring chances for and against while Kassian, Higgins and Vey have been on the ice this year, it doesn’t look great for Kass:

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Only Higgins has been over 50% for any sustained period of time. Heck, Vey only peeked over the break-even line twice all season, and Kassian hasn’t been anywhere near it since he broke his finger in November.

So maybe there is some method to Willie’s madness. Perhaps that early season play, especially while Kassian was out of the lineup for that extended period, has stuck in his mind and that’s why he’s giving Higgins a lot more leeway than the other two. 

But in 2015, they’ve all been pretty sub par. And while Vey has been scratched a couple times, Kassian remains the go-to-guy when Desjardins wants to make a line-up change. But never Higgins…

Oh. My. God.

I think I’ve figured it out:

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Willie has a Magnum P.I. thing going on. I mean, he certainly has the mustache for it. 

If only Zack knew how to fly a helicopter!

* offer not applicable to Canucks’ coaching staff or where prohibited by law.

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