Kane Excited to Join Oilers, But Is Negative Narrative Already Written?

Evander Kane spoke to the media on Friday ahead of his debut for the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday versus the Montreal Canadiens. He talked about the process of deciding on Edmonton, the leadership he thinks he can provide, the style of play he enjoys, and how he’s out to take advantage of a good opportunity. He said not everything is as it’s made out to be in the press, but noted, “I’m not sitting here saying I’m perfect. I think for me it’s just part of life, making mistakes, living, learning from them.”

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Still, despite being willing to answer any question thrown his way (at least ones he could legally answer), all while not being welcomed to the team by a single member of the media who had the opportunity to get a good quote during that conference, the narrative seems to be written by many in the Edmonton market that this signing is a mistake or will inevitably turn out badly.

Difference Between an On-Ice and Off-Ice Decision

There aren’t many who will argue Kane can’t provide offense for the Oilers. He’s skilled, he’s fast, he’s big, he’s edgy and he provides an element the Oilers don’t have in their top six. On paper, he’s an ideal addition at a cost of $1 million for the rest of the season. That’s not enough for a number of fans and media members who have run to social media and acted as judge, jury, and executioner before Kane has played a single game in an Oilers uniform.

Mark Spector quoted Kane from his media conference who said, “I understand the narrative. It’s easy to look at me… It goes both ways.” Then Spector wrote, “Kane has thus far taken zero responsibility for past transgressions. Plays the victim today.” Like Spector, who wanted Kane to show more contrition, some fans came out in droves and saw the one-on-one interview with TSN’s Kayla Grey on Thursday, and his media avail on Friday as more evidence Kane isn’t ready to take responsibility for his part in his often arduous journey. Others saw the interviews and believe Kane is, in some ways misunderstood.

Can Things in Edmonton Be Different?

It’s fair for reporters like Spector to be concerned. Kane hasn’t left most of the teams he’s played for under great circumstances. His last stint in San Jose was not pretty at all if you judge his entire stay there on just the last few months. He didn’t get along with everyone in Winnipeg or in Buffalo. Even general manager Ken Holland and head coach Dave Tippett admitted they proceeded with caution. Both spoke to people inside and outside of the organization and they believe they’ve done their homework. It’s fair to assume they looked at Kane more than they’ve probably looked at any player prior to adding them to their respective teams.

San Jose Sharks Evander Kane
San Jose Sharks Evander Kane celebrates with teammates (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Still, to say Kane didn’t get along with anyone would also be unfair. Holland and Tippett must have found enough evidence to suggest Kane could be a good teammate or is coachable, otherwise, this deal doesn’t get done. So too, there are plenty of reasons for Kane to make this work.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Oilers’ Shootout Win Overshadowed by Kane Signing

Essentially, this is a 44-game tryout for the rest of his NHL career. If he can’t make this short stay a success, and with the two best players in the world, few teams, if any, will touch him after this. If that’s not motivation enough, perhaps Kane is telling the truth when he says he’s not the evil monster he’s often made out to be. The stories aren’t pretty and his past seems troubled, but maybe he’s not the menace some in the hockey world want to make everyone believe he is. Maybe he fits in just fine and his fellow Oilers’ teammates wind up really enjoying his stay.

My point is, this could work out badly. It could also work out well. It’s too soon to say either way and it’s only fair to let him play first before throwing him out with the bathwater.

When Does a Player Run Out of Chances?

Perhaps it’s fair to ask a different question: at what point does a person (or league) wash their hands of a player? No doubt, Kane has made a number of errors and showed poor judgment. At the same time, it would be hard to suggest that every story one’s heard about the man and his troubles is 100 percent accurate. Unquestionably, many of the things he’s been accused of are not completely true and/or have been exaggerated by the media to tell a narrative. When you look at the fact the courts have granted him full and sole custody of his daughter, maybe it’s fair to suggest those who have condemned him don’t have all the facts.

Evander Kane - Sharks
Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks, Oct. 9, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Clearly, Ken Holland had to make a decision between what was best for his hockey team in terms of wins and what was best for his team in terms of chemistry. Holland said it wasn’t about “soul searching” to make the decision, but it took some time.

The same questions were asked when the Oilers added Zack Kassian (that turned out pretty well, even if one can argue he’s paid too much), and the same questions were asked of Tony DeAngelo in Carolina. As one of our editorial staff at THW said in a conversation about DeAngelo, “I’m not sure if it’s his attitude change, a change of scenery/locale, the locker room hierarchy, the coach, the staff, or what, but DeAngelo has been an exemplary player and teammate in Carolina from every report that I’ve seen.” Most of the NHL wrote off these two players. Both were able to turn the narrative and their respective situations around. Are those who’ve already sentenced Kane so arrogant to believe that they know he can’t prove people wrong?

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Financially, signing Kane didn’t require a lofty commitment. There’s a no-move clause in the deal, but it won’t destroy the Oilers if it doesn’t work out. To some, this move was a calculated gamble on the Oilers’ part with a motivated player to do his best over the course of 44 games.

Time Will Tell With Kane

In the end, this absolutely could backfire. That said, what if the help the player needs is playing on a team that wants him? What if talking to a professional while doing so is the right course of action? What if being in a supportive environment with the mistakes he’s learning from in his back pocket is the right combination to make this opportunity work?

Frankly, what if signing Kane works out? Will people look back and say, I suppose it’s good he got another shot? Or, will the narrative always be, he’s bound to mess this up? Everyone loves a good redemption story, but is Kane going to get the chance to write one?