Oilers’ Kane Delivering Peak Performance Despite Off-Ice Distractions

When the Edmonton Oilers decided to bring Evander Kane into the fold, there were concerns and doubt due to his previous off-ice issues. The San Jose Sharks terminated his contract last January due to a breach of his NHL Standard Player Contract and for violation of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) COVID-19 protocols. Not only that, but he had a bad rap because of a list of allegations and a history of being a bad teammate.

However, to say that Kane and the Oilers have been an excellent fit with each other so far would be saying it lightly. His combination of size, physicality, and scoring ability is exactly what they needed in their top-six. In 47 games, including the playoffs, Kane has tallied 27 goals and 18 assists, while providing a physical presence. He’s also without a doubt the best winger Connor McDavid has played with in his NHL career, aside from Leon Draisaitl.

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Moreover, all the baggage and negative chatter that surrounded Kane has been silenced since his arrival in Edmonton, and people that follow the team are only able to make assumptions about how he’s fitting in in the dressing room, based on analyzing interviews and also his big grin after goal celebrations with his teammates.

Yet, within the last few weeks, he’s had to deal with important off-ice matters that could generally be seen as distractions. Still, he hasn’t let the ordeals affect his focus, and not only did he raise his level of play down the playoff stretch for the Oilers, but he’s also carrying that high level of play over into the postseason.

Kane’s Grievance Hearing Hasn’t Affected His Play

Kane flew to New York on April 19th for his grievance hearing over the remaining $23 million from his contract with San Jose. The hearing was to determine if he would receive any money from the Sharks after his contract was terminated earlier this season. Although, It was reported that the grievance hearing required a second day, with no date yet known at this time.

Because of the grievance hearing, Kane took a personal leave of absence, was forced to miss practices, and flew into Edmonton just in time for the team’s next game. You’d have to think that a potential life-changing meeting, likely worth millions of dollars, would be weighing on his mind and affect his play? Not in the slightest.

Connor McDavid Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid and Evander Kane of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Kane flew to Edmonton just in time for their game against the Dallas Stars on April 20 and less than three minutes in, he scored off of a wonderful pass by McDavid. He finished the night with a goal, a plus/minus of plus-1 in 17:34 of ice time and a 76.92 CF% Corsi rating, in what ended up being a 5-2 win.

To top it off, he played his best game as an Oiler only a game later against the Colorado Avalanche. He scored a hat trick and added an assist, in a 6-3 win to help his team clinch a playoff spot. Overall, he raised his level of play down the stretch — in six regular games after his grievance hearing in New York, he tallied six goals and two assists.

Kane Wanted to Play a Good Game for His Uncle in Hospital

Kane has continued his torrid point pace into the playoffs. In four games he’s scored five goals and added an assist. In Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings, he scored his first career playoff hat trick, becoming the 12th player in franchise history to achieve the feat. Also, he’s the first Oiler to score a hat trick in 30 years and only the fifth player to do so on the road. In Game 4 he was held pointless, but he was his team’s most effective forward other than McDavid. He drove the net hard and created Grade-A chances. He mixed it up with a pair of Kings’ players late in the game, and received a 10-minute misconduct, setting the tone for Game 5.

However, after Game 3, it became known that he was dealing with an off-ice family matter. He stated in his post-game interview that he wanted to have a big game for his uncle, who is in the hospital:

“The beginning of the year was very tough, with a lot of different things going on in my life. Real credit to my family, for helping me through everything — my uncle is actually in the hospital, and I wanted to have a big game for him, so, there’s been a lot of trials and tribulations, and it’s nice to turn the page, and start to move forward in a positive way.”

– Evander Kane

Kane stating that, “It’s nice to turn the page, and start to move forward in a positive way” is a true reflection of his journey with the Oilers thus far. Ever since he’s joined the team, not only has he produced big points but it also seems he’s been on his best behaviour. An example of that is the Oilers Foundation tweeting on May 1 that Kane and the rest of his teammates made a $50,000 donation to a charity that helps people with disabilities and medical conditions.

Related: 6 Reasons Oilers Look Poised to Make Long 2022 Playoff Run

On another note, in his post-game interview after Game 4, he was also asked about Mike Smith’s error after giving the puck away in Game 1 and his ability to bounce back thereafter. Kane replied, “Everybody makes mistakes, it’s all about how you respond.” I feel he was talking about Smith, but that also could’ve been a metaphor for himself. He’s made mistakes in his past, was given a last chance and he’s now making the most of the opportunity in front of him.

The more Kane produces, hits and protects his teammates, the more I’m convinced the Oilers need to bring him back as McDavid’s linemate while the captain is in his prime years. Although, sorting out a contract will be a problem for the offseason. For now, Oil Country can sit back, relax and watch him potentially put on a playoff performance for the ages.

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