Jets Need To Resolve Kane Conundrum
The fractured relationship between Evander Kane and Winnipeg took a new twist yesterday, when Jets star Blake Wheeler called out the 23-year old:
After another summer of speculation, Kane recently said he was happy in Winnipeg – but the trade rumours continue, and Wheeler’s comments will do little to quell a fire that has raged from pretty much day one in Manitoba.
At some point the Jets, a franchise seemingly loathed to make tough decisions, needs to figure out if Kane is part of their long term plans; or if this constant pantomime is simply a distraction they could really do without.
The Vancouver native has tremendous potential, if the Jets can harness it.
Kane scored 30 goals in 2011/12, the teams first season in Winnipeg. He followed it up with a respectable 17 goals and 33 points during the truncated 2012/13 season, but regressed slightly last season – managing just 19 goals and 41 points whilst missing 19 games through injury.
Another 30 goal season, of which Kane is more than capable, would go along way to helping Winnipeg compete for a play-off place in the ultra competitive Central Division.
The 4th overall pick in 2009, Kane plays with a physical edge and a bravado that make him an effective player on the ice, but sometimes controversial off it. And that’s where much of the friction seems to come from.
The young star has never been shy about ‘flaunting it’ – with his infamous ‘money phone’ picture earning scorn from all quarters. On a team that needs to start winning, a few less TMZ stories and a few more highlight reel moves would go along way.
Kane is a confident and sometimes outspoken individual – he has what Adam Wylde described as the ‘Kanye West gene’ on the One Puck Short Podcast last season. It’s a trait which can appeal to some fans, particularly younger ones, but is rarely popular among the purists in the sport.
Now, after three years in Winnipeg and hardly a sniff of the post season, the honeymoon period is coming to an end for the Jets. If the team is going to compete in the West, it needs to stop the Evander Kane sideshow – one way or another.
There are those in Manitoba who would happily run the 6’2″ forward out of town, but if GM Kevin Cheveldayoff does move Kane he needs to ensure any return helps move the team forward.
Perhaps a goaltender or some quality forwards? Some help on the blue line? Whatever Cheveldayoff gets needs to be worth giving up on a 23 year old with a massive upside, and who could probably make any roster in the NHL.
Equally putting trade rumours to bed, accepting Kane can be brash and building the top 6 around him (and Wheeler) might give the Jets a fighting chance.
With four years remaining on his present deal, at a not unreasonable $5.25m cap hit, either option is workable – but with the Jets triumphant return wearing off, a poster boy is needed.
For a club who seemed so buttoned down, maybe rallying behind someone who can actually excite people, drive conversations about the team (‘no publicity is bad publicity’) and score 30+ goals isn’t such a bad thing?
Wheeler said his comments were blown out of proportion, which they were, but he is right – the Jets do need Kane to step up.
But he’s not the only one. Wheeler did point out that the club as a whole needs to use its speed better, but any reference to Kane immediately hits the headlines and distracts from the bigger picture.
Winnipeg are not good enough. They have not been good enough from the get go because they are the Atlanta Thrashers in different coloured jerseys. In Kane they have a player who could be the centre piece of the line up, or be used to gain other players who can help this club finally move forward.
But one way or another a decision has to be made.