There probably won’t be any friendly socializing between Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane and his former teammates before they host the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Thursday (March 24) night.
While he played three and a half seasons in San Jose, Kane doesn’t appear to have any friends on the Sharks. Enemies? That’s a different story.
Some Sharks Wanted Kane Gone
During the offseason, it was reported that several Sharks players did not want Kane back on their team, as he had been accused last summer by his wife of betting on his own games.
While a subsequent NHL investigation found no evidence to support those allegations, Kane’s detractors ultimately got their wish when the Sharks terminated Kane’s contract in early January, citing “breach of his NHL Standard Player Contract and for violation of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) COVID-19 protocols.”
Just over a couple weeks later, on Jan. 27, the Oilers signed Kane to a one-year contract with a $750,000 salary and $625,000 in bonuses. It was a highly controversial move, given his checkered past: gambling on his own games was the only the most recent in a string of troubling accusations Kane had faced in his personal life, and he had a reputation as a teammate who was not good in the dressing room.
Kane Thriving in Edmonton
The unease over Kane’s signing seems like a lifetime ago now. It may be too much to suggest he’s endeared himself in Oil Country, but he’s certainly not upsetting anyone by steering clear of problems off the ice while causing plenty of problems for opponents on it.
Since debuting with the Oilers on Jan. 29, Kane has scored 14 times and added 8 assists in 25 games, tying Connor McDavid for the team lead in goals over that span. He has 22 points, the third-most on the Oilers in the last 25 games behind only McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who just happen to be the last two players to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s points leader.
Additionally, he ranks first among Edmonton forwards with 3.08 hits per game this season. Kane’s 77 hits are 19 more than any other Oiler has totalled over the last 25 games.
Kane’s Impact Felt on Oilers
Individual stats are only as meaningful as a team’s success, and Kane’s presence in Edmonton’s lineup has made an objective difference. The Oilers are 14-8-3 (.620 points percentage) in the 25 games since Kane’s arrival, compared to 10-13-2 (.440) over the 25 games prior to his signing.
He’s brought a new attitude to a team that had lacked snarl. There have been Oilers with the size of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Kane, but it’s been a long time since they have had a player of his perpetually ill disposition. He’s never shy of the rough stuff and has come to his teammates’ defense without fail on multiple occasions.
This all seems to be rubbing off on other Oilers, like his current linemate Kailer Yamamoto, who is playing his best hockey in more than two years. Not only is the diminutive winger on a scoring tear, with goals in six of the last seven games, but the 5-foot-8, 153-pounder is mixing it up like he’s the biggest man on the ice, possibly in part because he knows the actual biggest man on the ice has got his back.
Kane’s Second Meeting with the Sharks
While this is his first time facing the Sharks in his new home, Kane has already lined up opposite his former team, in the Bay on Valentine’s Day, when Edmonton defeated the Sharks 3-0 at SAP Center.
In his pre-game comments, Kane completely downplayed that first meeting with the Sharks (“I haven’t given it much thought”), which kept to the straight and narrow path he’s been walking since joining the Oilers. He wasn’t about to provide any bulletin board material for his ex-teammates, but there surely was an added level of emotion.
Edmonton got the win in San Jose, but Kane was held pointless by the Sharks. That was just his seventh time suiting up for the Oilers, and since then he has 12 goals in 18 games, which are most on the Oilers and sixth in the entire league over that time.
Now comes his second chance at some payback, and if it helps lead to an Edmonton win, no one in Oil Country is going to mind Kane getting his pound of flesh. In fact, all his individual actions so far have been in the best interest of the team, and there would be no better revenge than an Oilers victory in regulation, which would just about dash the Sharks’ slim playoff hopes.
Of course, it goes without saying that every point is huge for the Oilers in their drive towards the postseason. Edmonton enters Thursday’s game third in the Pacific Division, three points up on the fourth-place Vegas Golden Knights.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.