Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
22 days ago
It doesn’t matter who Edmonton Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft plugs into the left-wing spot that had been occupied by Evander Kane until Tuesday. The reality is Woodcroft doesn’t have anybody on his roster who can provide the same combination of skill, speed, and toughness.
That’s no revelation to anybody who has been paying attention as the Oilers face the Carolina Hurricanes tonight without Kane, who will miss the first of many games he’ll sit out with a lacerated wrist suffered against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The bad news we know – Kane is out from three to four months.
How that plays out and who’ll fill the void for anywhere from 17 to 31 games, we don’t know. Klim Kostin and Mattias Janmark have already been recalled from Bakersfield. What we’ll get in Kane’s first game on the shelf in Raleigh, according to play-by-play man Jack Michaels, is rookie Dylan Holloway alongside Leon Draisaitl and right winger Zach Hyman.
The kid might do fine, but he’s no Kane, who had 5-8-13 in 14 games when Pat Maroon’s skate sliced his wrist. Nobody here is. That said, I don’t mind seeing Woodcroft giving Holloway, who has just 10 NHL games on his resume, a look. Maybe Holloway takes the opportunity and runs with it, although I have my doubts at this point in his career. Let’s find out.
SUCK IT UP
Nov 1, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane (91) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
What Woodcroft and the Oilers need is to find a way to minimize the drop-off from Kane to whoever takes his place in the line-up and to get a little bit more from everybody else. We’ll hear plenty of talk in the coming weeks about picking up the slack and sucking it up and that’s about as much of a cliché as you’ll find. It’s a cliché because it’s true. All hands on deck. The thing is, it’s doable.
The Oilers score enough goals to win even without Kane. Aside from Connor McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doing what they do, Woodcroft will have to squeeze more production from Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto. I don’t mind the third line of Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod, and Derek Ryan.
The way I see it, two aspects of the Oilers game can do much to mitigate the loss of Kane. First, the penalty killing, mostly heinous this season, has to build on the game it put together in Tampa Bay, holding the Lightning scoreless in five attempts and scoring a shorthanded goal. The PK doesn’t have to be top-five in the league, but it can’t be near the basement either.
As important, the Oilers need more of what we saw from Jack Campbell against the Bolts. After characterizing his performance as “pathetic,” he was locked in against Tampa Bay, stopping 35 of 37 shots. If Campbell, who’ll get the net tonight, gets right, he and Stuart Skinner, who has been better to this point, can provide Woodcroft the goaltending he needs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The way I see it, expecting this roster to get along without Kane and the multiple dimensions he brings like nothing has happened is a big ask, and not a realistic one. These next three or four months represent a long, tough haul. Like I said, there’s no replacing him, barring a trade.
That said, if we get more of the PK and the version of Campbell we saw Tuesday with the top-end guys doing their thing, there’s no reason for this team to fall down a mine shaft. We’ll get a look at how it might go starting tonight.