Canucks’ Zack Kassian suspended eight games for breaking Oiler Sam Gagner's jaw
Notebook: Vancouver’s Dale Weise gets three-game suspension for head shot
VANCOUVER — Vancouver Canucks right-winger Zack Kassian pleaded his case with the NHL's department of safety Monday but it apparently fell on deaf ears.
Kassian was suspended for eight games by league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan — three in pre-season and the first five of the regular season — for breaking the jaw of Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner with a careless high stick Saturday. He also broke five of Gagner's teeth.
Fellow Canuck right winger Dale Weise was suspended for the remainder of the pre-season (three games) for a check to the head of Taylor Hall the same night.
Kassian waived his right to an in-person hearing Monday, the in-person hearing usually a sign the league is leaning towards a suspension of longer than five games. He received only a double minor on the play. He will be eligible to return Oct. 12 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Canuck management issued a statement Monday night and, in it, disagreed with the length of the penalties.
“While we don’t agree with these decisions, particularly the severity of each suspension, we respect the position of the league in these matters and will provide no further comment,” said the statement.
Shanahan deemed the Kassian high stick reckless, although he did accept Kassian's assertion it was not intentional.
“He is, however, responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick,” Shanahan explained in a league-issued video. “As he nears the boards, Kassian comes to a spinning stop, recklessly swinging his stick in the face, breaking Gagner's jaw.”
Shanahan ruled Weise targeted the head of Hall.
“Weise does not hit Hall through the body and the head is the main point of contact,” said Shanahan. “This is an illegal check to the head.”
Prior to the verdict coming down, Kassian insisted to reporters he struck Gagner by accident. Both he and Weise are first-time offenders.
“Obviously I didn't try to slash Gagner in the face,” Kassian said. “All I can do is respect the league's decision. I could sit here all day and plead my case. Obviously you never want to see someone get injured and have to miss games but it was a hockey play. In the game of hockey, things happen at a fast pace. They have their opinion. That's what this world is about.
“I have to respect the league's decision. You can't hang your head.”
Canuck assistant coach Mike Sullivan, who handled media duties following Monday's morning skate, said the team would “just respect” the process.
“There are all kinds of things the league takes into consideration when they make those type of decisions,” Sullivan commented before the verdicts came down. “To the league's defence, they're not easy decisions. There are so many aspects involved and there are two sides to every story.
“Zack tried to make a bodycheck, he missed and his momentum took him into the boards,” continued Sullivan. “I don't think there was intent there. When you look at it, most people, I think, would agree there wasn't any intent there. Obviously there was an injury and we'll be respectful of the decision they make.”
Canuck winger Alex Burrows wasn't sure what to draw from the incident.
“Obviously you don't like to see a guy lose five teeth and break his jaw,” Burrows said. “That kind of sucks. Looking at it from the outside, it looked accidental. But if it happened to me, I would probably be pissed at the guy and would probably want him to be suspended. So you can look at it from both sides.”
Kassian, meanwhile, didn't seem fazed by the Oilers' waiver pickup Monday of Steve MacIntyre, a 250-pound hockey pugilist. MacIntyre has two goals and 175 penalty minutes in 91 NHL appearances.
“Perfect,” responded Kassian. “I don't think he can skate. That's the last thing on our mind.”
SICK BAY WATCH: Defenceman Dan Hamhuis was the lone Canuck among the injured group to emerge from the infirmary Monday. He skated with the non-playing group. His absence has been described as “overall body soreness” or something in that vein.
Jordan Schroeder (left ankle), David Booth (groin) and Nicklas Jensen (upper body) remained on the sidelines. Schroeder and Jensen went down Saturday in Edmonton while Booth pulled up lame in Saturday's morning skate.
“I would say Dan Hamhuis is closest,” Sullivan said. “David is still continuing to be evaluated. He's got some soreness and stiffness. Obviously we're trying to be somewhat cautious to make sure we take the extra time so it doesn't linger.”
TRYING TIME: Former Vancouver Giants star forward Gilbert Brule is in the Phoenix Coyotes camp on a tryout basis trying to resurrect his once-promising career. Brule has admitted to battling depression.
Brule, 26, was the sixth overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005 before a trade to the Oilers in 2008 (for Raffi Torres). He also played 45 games, including playoffs, for the Coyotes during the 2011-12 season. He is scheduled to be in the lineup Monday night when the 'Yotes meet the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
“Every game is a chance to prove yourself and show what you can do,” Brule said prior to the game. “It's been great to be in this environment, especially in Phoenix. I'm comfortable there, I know quite a few of the guys and the coaches are awesome. So it's been good. As far as any contract talks, no, there has been nothing yet. I'm just on a playing tryout, doing what I can.”
Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett lauded Brule for his conditioning and noted that he was making an impression.
“He's given himself a chance,” Tippett said. “He's is in great shape and playing with good energy. He'll get an opportunity here.”
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