Car accident a blessing in disguise for Oilers’ Zack Kassian

Zack Kassian had no regrets and no resentments during his short stint with the Montreal Canadiens, adding that the car crash may have even saved his career. It was a big wake-up call, and it started the changes he needed.

Zack Kassian’s brief stint with the Montreal Canadiens was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The 25-year-old was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks on July 1 for Brandon Prust but never ended up playing a regular season game with the Habs. Kassian entered a substance abuse program after being involved in an early-morning car accident in early October. Although he was not the driver of the vehicle and no charges were laid against him, Kassian suffered a broken nose, broken left foot and the incident didn’t leave a positive impression on his new team. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said at the time the player showed “a lack of character and judgment.”

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When Kassian completed the program in mid-December, he was reinstated by the NHL and NHLPA but was waived by the Canadiens the following day. On Dec. 28, Kassian was dealt to the Oilers in exchange for goaltender Ben Scrivens.

Since then, everything has taken a positive turn.

“The best thing for my career was the car accident to be honest,” Kassian told reporters Friday, one day ahead of facing his former team. “It was an eye-opener. Who knows what would have happened if that car accident never happens? At the time it’s tough to swallow but over the last four months I’ve learned to be okay with it and just move on. I’m just looking to build up my reputation again.”

In eight games with Edmonton the 13th-overall pick from the 2009 NHL Draft has two goals, two assists and is averaging 13:37 of ice-time per game in a third-line role.

Despite the way things ended in Montreal, Kassian harbours no ill will towards the Original Six franchise.

“They were great to me when I was here,” Kassian said. “Marc’s a great person, the team, a bunch of great guys. I couldn’t thank the team enough. Obviously what happened to me was negative but at the same time what came from that was me finally realizing that I needed help and I got it and now it’s just a matter of me staying on top of it.”

The Oilers, 2-0 since the return of Connor McDavid, visit the slumping Canadiens Saturday afternoon in the first game on Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada.

“I’m not looking for any redemption,” Kassian added. “Me, I got an opportunity to play for the Edmonton Oilers and I’m very thankful for that. I’m not mad at Montreal by any means. If anything I’m mad at myself for screwing up that opportunity. I’m just looking to move forward. Obviously it will feel nice if I get a goal [Saturday] or even better if we get a win but there’s definitely no hard feelings.”


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