Edmonton Oilers, Evander Kane

Oilers Fans Should Judge Evander Kane on His On-Ice Performance

The passion the Edmonton Oilers’ fanbase has for their team is immense. Earlier in the season when the team was 16-5, fans were screaming outside of Rogers Place and banged on the glass for their heroes during post-game interviews. But when the team started losing, jerseys were tossed onto the ice and they called for trades for absolutely anyone that help save the season.

Here they are now with Evander Kane, and there’s a split in Oil Country with his addition to the team. On one side, some fans act appalled the Oilers would sign someone with such a long list of allegations and a history of being a bad teammate. On the other side, many are rejoicing in thinking essentially the team lucked out and found a $7 million player at a reduced priced from the bargain bin.

If you don’t like the person that Kane is, that’s fine and your choice to make. The fact is, he makes the Oilers a better team and has admitted he has previous faults which he is seeking help for. Until he gives a reason to think otherwise — moving forward — judgments should be made solely on his on-ice performance and not by his previous personal baggage.

It’s Easy to Have a Negative Perception of Kane’s Character

In October 2021, the NHL suspended the Vancouver, BC native for 21 games for producing a fake vaccine passport. In an interview with TSN, he admitted his mistakes, while also adding that he is vaccinated. In 2016 there were allegations of sexual assault when he played for the Buffalo Sabres, but following an investigation, prosecutors said there was no evidence to support the claim. He was also investigated by the NHL for allegations against his estranged wife for domestic violence and betting on NHL games, but again, there was no evidence to support the claims. There was also insufficient evidence that he lied about his COVID-19 status when he traveled during Christmas.

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That’s quite the list of allegations, and It’s easy to see why people have such a negative perception on him. I’m not defending the player, but at the same time, what’s most significant is the end result, and after thorough investigations, he has not been charged with any wrongdoings. Aside from the people involved and the investigators, no one truly knows the whole story, except for hearsay. At the same time, the fact that his name is dragged through the mud time and again suggests that he isn’t a stranger to trouble.

In last Friday’s press conference, although he deflected what he’s learned from his mistakes, he spoke about fans that have a negative perception of him, saying, “I would encourage them to be open-minded, to allow me to do what I do best and get to know me on the ice, off the ice, around the rink, in the community and see what I bring to the table.” He also added that he views himself as a leader.

“Everyone in this room has made mistakes.
“I view myself as a leader.” – Evander Kane

Actions speak louder than words, but it appears the player understands this is his second (or third) chance to get his career on the right path. He also admits he has a gambling problem, and it’s something he seeks help for from a counselor. I think it’s fair to give the player the benefit of the doubt to prove himself. Remember, the Oilers experimented with Zack Kassian when they acquired him in 2015. He also had a history of off-ice issues, but since then he’s become sober and was able to turn his career around to become an effective NHL player.

Kane Is A Fearless Competitor On the Ice

If Kane did not have the history of allegations that he does have, and you solely looked at his on-ice work, there’s no doubt you would appreciate his craft without hesitation. How many times during the Oilers’ losing skid did you say the team gets pushed around too easily? Probably many.

On Jan. 9 I wrote an article about the Oilers lacking toughness, to which many replied that they agreed. I highlighted their road trip through New York, and how Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were pushed around and had to fend for themselves against the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

Islanders forward Ross Johnston, who averages less than 10 minutes a game, was in the face of Draisaitl early in the game. He cross-checked, slashed, and exchanged words with the big German, with no Oiler teammate coming to his aid. Against the Rangers, Ryan Reaves delivered a big early hit on Draisaitl, which rattled the Oilers’ centre. In the same game, McDavid was slew footed by Jacob Trouba. Again, no response from anyone on the team on both occasions.

This is where Kane— who was named after the former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield — will shine. His father was an amateur boxer, and the lust for fighting must’ve rubbed off on the younger Kane. Reaves may arguably be the best enforcer in the NHL, and Kane — with 21 fighting majors to his name — fought him without hesitation in 2019.

Kane’s most impressive act of fearlessness came in 2019 while part of the San Jose Sharks. He was jousting with then Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara. The 6-foot-9 behemoth defender threw a questionable hit to Kane’s head, and without second thought, he went after Chara and threw punches while he was on the ground. Not only did Kane fight him, but he was also the one who initiated it.

Name another player in the league with speed to play with McDavid, can score 25+ goals a year, and is willing to take on the biggest heavyweights in the NHL? There are very few. Also, think of how the Oilers’ captain must feel to have someone on his line that’s absolutely fearless to fight? The former Hart Trophy winner will feel protected (for once), which might allow him to push his game to new heights.

Kane Is off to a Good Start With the Oilers

Other than Draisaitl, Kane might be the best winger McDavid’s ever had in his seven-year career, based on skill set. He draws comparisons to another previous winger that had success on the captain’s wing, Patrick Maroon. He was big, fought, and showed the ability to finish off the captain’s plays, recording a career-high 27 goals in 2016-2017. However, Kane is like the deluxe version of Maroon — he’s faster, with a more proven ability to put the puck in the net, with six seasons of 20 or more goals, hitting 30 once.

Related: Oilers Signing of Kane Could Be Biggest Mid Season Move in Team History

He’s exactly what the Oilers need right now. Within the last stretch of games, McDavid’s wingers haven’t been able to convert on the captain’s prime passes in scoring areas. Kailer Yamamoto is always hounding the puck and in the right spots, but lacks the finish to be a consistent scoring threat. Jesse Puljujarvi (who has been playing with Draisaitl lately) is playing well positionally but has gone cold as of late with only three goals in his last 25 games. The bottom line is, Kane can finish.

Evander Kane scores the Oilers first goal. The team’s first goal of a hockey game in 12 games. #Oilers

Last Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, in a storybook-like fashion, Kane scored the first goal of the game — something Edmonton hasn’t been able to do in their previous 12 contests. It’s clear he’ll need a few games to shake off the rust and mesh with McDavid, but he had a promising first game in an Oilers uniform, adding four hits, and plus-2 in over 17 minutes of ice time.

It’s easy to judge a person with such a bad history of terrible allegations. It’s a human reaction. There will be rumours created about him, and while anyone can speculate— no one truly knows what goes on beyond the locker room doors, except the players themselves. To Oilers fans that are unhappy about the signing, give him an honest chance to prove himself, before running him out of town. Like the Hockey Writers’ Jim Parsons writes, this is a 44-game trial to see if he can continue his NHL career.

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