Off the Top of My Head
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
I didn’t know Evander Kane when I saw the photos of him flashing those stacks of money in Las Vegas years ago – I believe it was 2012 — but I didn’t like him. Kane, with the Winnipeg Jets then, struck me as a smart-ass kid, a poser and a gangsta wannabe. I think he was 21.
Jump ahead to last January, I didn’t like the buzz about the Edmonton Oilers signing Kane. Too much baggage. Too many off-ice issues that played into my initial impression of him. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. I was convinced he was a sketchy guy and what you’d get from him on the ice wasn’t worth the aggravation. GM Ken Holland did the ink anyway.
It turned out Kane wasn’t just a prolific and impactful player for the Oilers on the ice last season, he was a good teammate and a solid citizen off it, as far as we know. It worked out big time. That said, I figured Kane would chase a payday as a UFA. He’d earned the biggest stack he could get. Common sense dictated Kane was outta here for sure, no? Then, in a move I never saw coming, he re-signed with the Oilers for $20.5 million over four years.
HERE AND NOW
A really good read by Sportsnet’s Mark Spector a couple days ago got me thinking about how my perception of Kane has changed since the wise guy photo in Vegas, since the Oilers rolled the dice on him. I still don’t know Kane, who is 31 now and has 814 NHL games in the books, but what he said about Connor McDavid and the mix in the room stuck with me. It reads:
And if you talk quietly with McDavid, he’s more than pleased to watch from some distance while Kane adds some spice to Edmonton’s dressing room.
“Connor is really cerebral guy,” Kane assessed. “He knows how a room runs, and maybe he doesn’t get enough credit for being the type of leader he is in terms of using other guys. In our room, we have a really good understanding of what’s important and what’s not so important. When you have everybody on the same page, it makes things operate.
“And this is coming from me,” he laughs. “I don’t think there’s one guy on this team that doesn’t get along with everyone else. And that’s rare. Very rare.”
If the Oilers are going to take the next step and become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders and not just Western Conference finalists this season, Kane is going to play a significant part in it along with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. I didn’t see that coming last January, let alone when Kane was posing with those tall stacks in Sin City a decade ago, but here we are.
Mar 7, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and Calgary Flames center Blake Coleman (20) battle for the puck during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
With the Battle of Alberta rekindled last spring with the first playoff series between the Flames and Oilers since 1991, it’s a shame last night — the Flames prevailed 4-3 — is the only appearance Calgary will make at Rogers Place this season. The Oilers will play twice down the road in Calgary. Odd scheduling, to understate.
That said, the Oilers’ 4-1 series win means the BOA has jumped from being well-worn legend of 1980’s provincial battles past to something real, something tangible players and fans today have been part of. Even with changes to both rosters, most notably with the Flames, it looks like the teams are going to slug it out atop the Pacific Division again. A real deal encore.
“Whenever you have two really good teams that close to each other,” said Zach Hyman, who got his first taste of the BOA after coming over from Toronto. “Two fan bases who probably have family members on both sides, or friends, there’s extra motivation to cheer as a fan. As a player, you feed off that, whether you’re at home on the road.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Jonathan Huberdeau wasn’t the only member of the Huberdeau family on the ice in Calgary for Thursday’s season opener against Colorado. His 22-year-old sister Josiane sang the Star-Spangled Banner as part of opening ceremonies before the Flames beat the Avs 5-3.
Josiane started singing the anthems when her big brother was in the QMJHL with Saint John. She also belted out the anthems during his time with the Florida Panthers. Says big brother: “When I got traded here, she asked if (she) could sing and I said, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea.’ First game, she’s here. So, I asked, and the Flames have been great and said yes.”
Huberdeau’s parents flew in from Montreal for the game to see his debut with the Flames.