ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, October 14, 1999
Cassels adds depth to CanucksVANCOUVER (CP) -- At first Andrew Cassels must have wondered what he got himself into with the Vancouver Canucks.
During training camp the free-agent signing found himself centring a line between pint-sized left-winger Steve Kariya, who has to stand on his tiptoes to look over the boards, and Alexander Mogilny, whose enthusiasm for the game can ebb and flow like the tides in English Bay.
Turns out Cassels couldn't be happier. The unlikely trio has combined for five goals and four assists in the first four games of the young NHL season.
"Any playmaker wants to have two guys that can fly up and down the wing and guys that are natural goalscorers," said Cassels, who scored a goal and picked up his third assist of the season in Vancouver's 4-3 overtime loss to his old team Wednesday, the Calgary Flames.
It was Calgary's first win of the season and Vancouver's first loss.
"They (Kariya and Mogilny) both have good speed," said Cassels. "The more you give them the puck the more opportunities they are going to get."
Eyebrows were raised this summer when the Canucks signed Cassels, who scored 29 goals over the last two years with the Flames, to a three-year, $7.5-million US deal. It looked like a minor tuneup to a Vancouver team badly in need of a major overhaul.
But the 30-year-old native of Bramalea, Ont., has added needed depth to a Canucks team very shallow in talent last year. Vancouver missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season last year with a 23-47-12 record.
"Of the people that were available last year he was the guy our people had really focused on," said coach Marc Crawford.
"Andrew has allowed us to really have a unit that is highly skilled and thinks the game really well. He understands the game very well and he understands what he has to do to be successful."
Cassels won't bag you a bushel of goals. The most he's ever scored in a season was 22 with Hartford in 1996-97.
What he can do is make plays and put the puck on the stick of the goalscorers.
"He's probably one of the best passers I've ever played with," said Kariya. "He's so unselfish with the puck and sees the ice so well."
For Mogilny, Cassels is the reincarnation of Cliff Ronning. Ronning was the centre when Mogilny scored 55 goals in 79 games in 1995-96.
"He fills a big hole for us," said Mogilny. "He likes to move the puck. He sees the ice well."
Crawford did a little line juggling during the second period of Wednesday's game. When the hitting got heavy he nailed Kariya to the bench and inserted Todd Bertuzzi to add some crash and bash.
Kariya returned to the line in the third period.
Cassels was Montreal's first pick, 17th overall, in the 1987 draft. He was traded to Hartford in 1991 and played six seasons with the Whalers before being dealt to Calgary in August of 1997.
Cassels admits he wasn't as productive with the Flames as he would have liked. He had 12 goals and 25 assists last year. When he became a free agent during the summer he no longer fit into the budget-conscious Flames plans.
There is a certain irony his first goal of the year came against Calgary, Cassels said.
"It's nice to score against your old team but it's even nicer to beat your old team," he said.
"I was treated fairly there and given a great opportunity. I'm not going to say anything bad. I didn't put up the numbers I wanted to there."