When it comes to calling an upcoming season as a redemptive one for a player there is usually a reason behind the claim. In most cases the player had failed to live up to expectations the season before and must redeem himself in order to restore balance, either by exceeding the new expectations or recapturing the old ones.
I don’t necessarily like calling 2012-2013 a redemption season for Evander Kane. It insinuates that his 2011-2012 campaign that consisted of 30 goals and 27 assists was a decline from previous years. Obviously that’s not the case.
Instead his redemption is an unusual one, stemming from his life outside of the arena and the controversies that have caused a rift between Kane and the people of Winnipeg.
Whether you believe the rift is justifiable or not (it’s not), it’s easy to see how Kane lost favor in a city desperate for hockey success. Instead of reading about Kane’s on ice talents they’ve been bombarded with reports of trade demands, dine and dash accusations and rumored bar room brawl induced concussions.
With every story that emerged, valid or not, the rift grew larger to the point where his achievements on the ice were being overlooked due to his incidents off of it. The best example of this is the fact that a single twitter picture of Kane using a stack of money as an imaginary phone gained more media attention than the six year, $31.5 million contract he signed months prior.
It’s that type of perception that Kane is going up against. Whether he likes it or not he is a polarizing athlete in Winnipeg and that comes with a certain amount of scrutiny. That scrutiny builds the proverbial rift and there is only way to close it; win.
If there is one thing that cures the tension between players and fans it’s winning. Just ask Patrick Kane and TJ Oshie, two players whose personal problems were wiped from their fandom’s collective memory because of their team’s success. Win and all the problems become a distant memory.
So far Kane is doing his best to accomplish just that in 2013. In five games he has tallied six points (3 goals, 3 assists), 17 hits and leads the Winnipeg forwards in ice time with an average of 19:09 minutes per game. But most importantly he has propelled them to a 3-1-1 start.
A lot of that success has stemmed from Kane’s growth as a player. He still has the dynamic combination of speed and size but another year of NHL experience has dramatically helped his hockey IQ. He has a better understanding of the games idiosyncrasies and he is playing at a much more consistent level which was his downfall last season.
Another noticeable addition to Kane’s game is his impeccable chemistry with Blake Wheeler. The two have a great understanding of where to be when the other person has the puck, proven by the fact that Kane has assisted on both of Wheeler’s goals and Wheeler has assisted on two of Kane’s three goals. If the duo can continue to gel it gives the Jets the all important prolific first line that all contending teams need.
We may just be five games into the season but the building blocks for an Evander Kane redemption season are there. If he can lead the Jets into the playoffs the memories of Las Vegas twitter pictures will be forgotten like they should have been a week after they occurred.