John Tortorella is known for calling them as he sees them, but the Canucks coach raised a few eyebrows following Monday’s win over Washington when asked about the performance of Zack Kassian.
The young winger scored his second goal of the season to open the scoring in the game, a 3-2 Vancouver win, but Torts didn’t candy coat his comments:
“Zack Kassian? Good at times. Crappy at times. But he’s coming. He’s coming. He still has to work on his consistency, having the puck, protecting the puck. So he wasn’t too bad.”
Following Tuesday’s practice, Tortorella agreed that being suspended for the first five games of the season robbed Kassian of the momentum he’d built with a good training camp.
“Where I think it hurt him is with his legs,” said Tortorella. “We’re trying to get Kass to always move his legs. When he’s an effective player, he’s on the body, he’s a hard player to play against. At times, he’s not getting there right now.
“It’s disappointing, because I thought he was having a good camp and then (the suspension) happens. I think it set him back. But (Monday) night I thought he gave us some good shifts and I thought he struggled at certain times. Hopefully, we can iron that out.”
Kassian said he’s had two “very clear, very blunt” discussions with the coach, so he knows what’s expected of him. But he also believes he’s regained his game conditioning and still needs work on the mental part.
“It’s more just the reacting on plays, when you haven’t played in a while,” he said. “It’s jumping in and making good hockey plays. Sometimes, I’m a step late. That’s something that comes along with playing.”
Kassian said he’s trying not to focus on scoring stats.
“Everyone is always looking at points, but for me if the team is winning and I’m doing my job — doing all the little things — then I don’t really care about points.”