Oilers Are Becoming a Tougher Team Thanks to Evander Kane

It just wasn’t the Edmonton Oilers’ night against the Minnesota Wild last Tuesday. Costly giveaways resulted in a 5-1 loss, despite outshooting the Wild 28-23. But the headline of the night was Evander Kane’s altercation with the five Wild skaters, including Ryan Hartman, who let the Oilers’ forward know how he felt about him when he flashed Kane the middle finger.

Hartman said after the fact, “It goes to show, we had five guys in there. They didn’t have one guy in there to help him,” Hartman said in the post-game interview. “I don’t think any of their guys are going to defend him.”

That may have been how Hartman perceived the situation, but that simply wasn’t true. Kailer Yamamoto was already in the scrum, fending off a Wild player. The other Oilers’ on the ice had to skate over, but once they did, each pulled a Wild player aside and prevented them from getting at Kane.

In that scenario, regardless of the score, you have to appreciate Kane’s battle level. The game was out of reach, but he competed until the last whistle. It’s a statement to the rest of the team to put the loss behind you, and take that emotion into the next game. It seems so simple, but that “toughness” mentality is so vital and can have a ripple effect on his teammates to play tough down the playoff stretch.

Kane’s Toughness Is Needed Down the Playoff Stretch

In the third period, Yamamoto — who has shown more bite in his game with Kane in the lineup — cross-checked Mats Zuccarello, who then slashed Yamamoto in return. Kirill Kaprizov took exception and cross-checked the Oilers’ winger as he skated by, and in came Kane to the defense of his linemate. A melee broke out and in came all five Wild skaters after the rugged winger.

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

Initially, there were just small shoves and gloves to Kane’s face, then Ryan Hartman came flying into the scrum after him. The linesman — who should’ve let the two willing combatants go at it— stayed between the two players, while Hartman attempted to throw a punch. It’s clear that Kane wanted to let the fists fly, but the other linesman came in to separate the two. As they were skating away, Hartman gave Kane the middle finger and was fined $4,250 by the NHL’s department of player safety for his not-so-pleasant hand gesture.

What’s interesting though, is the personnel of Oilers that were on the ice with Kane at the time — Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod, Tyson Barrie, and Brett Kulak — none of whom are known to be rough after the whistle is blown. Contrary to what Hartman said about Kane’s teammates not coming to his defense, there they were — in the thick of things — coming to the aid of their fellow Oiler.

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Seeing that, you’d have to think that fired up the rest of the players on the Oilers’ bench. For a team that’s been deemed too “soft”, this is the type of emotion and unity the team needs, from the skilled first-line players, all the way down to the supposed “tough guys” on the team, like Zack Kassian and Darnell Nurse.

That said, Kane, with 21 fighting majors to his name, didn’t seem to hesitate to take on all five Wild players. He said after the game, “It took all five guys and they couldn’t bring me down,” He explained. “I definitely would have liked to get loose, put it that way.”

Kane’s Been a Physical Presence All Season

Kane has brought his teammates into the fight on multiple occasions throughout the season. He left an impression in head coach Jay Woodcroft’s debut behind the bench on Feb. 11.

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau skated by the crease and took down Mike Smith with his leg. Leon Draisaitl went in to defend his goaltender and a scrum ensued. The first person who jumped in to back him up was none other than Kane. He jousted with Islander forward Oliver Wahlstrom and motioned for him to drop the gloves. That event led to a dustup near the end of the game when emotions were high. Wahlstrom, who was frustrated, took a run at Oilers’ defenceman Nurse, and all five Oilers on the ice, including Kane, went after the Islanders’ forward.

Also, the incident against the Wild last Tuesday wasn’t the first time Kane’s mixed it up with the other team in a losing cause. In a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 9, the rugged winger was battling with former Oiler Caleb Jones as time was winding down in the game. His stick hit goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, and in return, the Blackhawks’ goaltender shoved Kane.

Kane realized that retaliating on a goalie would be a bad move. In the end, he continued to battle with Jones as the dying seconds of the game ticked away. Depending on your perception of the situation, it might seem like a needless altercation with seconds remaining in a losing cause, but it was also a statement to the team to battle until the final buzzer even in a tough loss.

Related: Oilers Can Re-Sign Kane, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, & McLeod for 2022- 2023

Oilers’ color commentator Bob Stauffer has been hinting that the team should re-sign Kane in the offseason, in his last few segments on “Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer.” The Oilers have just under $8 million in cap space for next season, and they’ll have to get creative if they want to re-sign the power forward. On that note, The Hockey Writers’ Rob Couch wrote an article, offering a unique approach to how the team can fit him under the salary cap.

Despite where the Oilers finish this season, McDavid and Draisaitl are in their prime playing days. They’re in win-now mode and Kane is exactly what they need moving forward. No one truly knows what happens beyond the locker room doors, aside from the players themselves, but you’d have to imagine the team’s two elite players, enjoying having a player on their line that can score goals and can make the rest of the team play a little tougher.

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