Sure, when you walk into the Hall of Fame room at Rogers Place, there are plenty of trinkets that remind the visitors, and the hundreds of fans dancing in the streets outside, of the many superstars who have worn Edmonton Oilers colours over the years.
But, the reclamation project is just as much a part the team’s DNA as is the procession of point-creating stars who have called Edmonton home. The strategy of signing so-called problem players and offering them the chances to relaunch their careers has paid benefits in the past.
It’s a page borrowed out of the playbooks of the great Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Pirates of the 1970s, the Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s, who won championships with cores of players who were considered to be bad apples by other front offices. The great Arsenal team that went undefeated in the 2003-04 Premier League season were led by Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, players who were once considered busts at other clubs.
From Craig MacTavish to Petr Klima to Zack Kassian, and heck, you could argue that Stanley Cup winning netminder Bill Ranford should be on the list, the Oilers have been a safe haven for those looking to reinvent themselves.
But Evander Kane? This is a new level. His short-term signing was not universally loved by Oilers fans back in January. He had gambling issues in the past. His contract hasd been terminated by the San Jose Sharks. He was suspended for using a fake COVID vaccination card. There were allegations (albeit unproven) of domestic troubles that were launched by his ex-wife.
“I want to clear up a lot of the misinformation, a lot of the storylines painting me in a certain light that are completely untrue, inaccurate and false,” Kane said the day his signing was made official by the Oilers.. “I would encourage [fans] to be open-minded, to allow me to do what I do best and get to know me on the ice, off the ice, around the rink, in the community, and see what I bring to the table.”
We have seen what he has brought to the table. And it is significant. If Edmonton is indeed the NHL’s city of second chances, Kane has taken that opportunity, and then some. In the playoffs, he has four multi-goal games. On Sunday night against the Calgary Flames, he scored a natural hat trick in just seven minutes of game time, pacing the Oilers to a 4-1 win and a 2-1 series lead in the Battle of Alberta.
Kane’s hockey IQ is off the charts. Since he arrived in Edmonton, he has a knack for separating opponents from the puck, of finding dead spots on the ice, of taking every advantage of playing wing man for Connor McDavid, the world’s best player. His game has only improved in the playoffs. Sunday’s triumph over the Flames,
But, Sunday was not going to be the night that Kane offered deep introspection into his second chance. When asked to look back at the last several months of his career, to go from outcast to Oilers first-line star, he stuck to the tried-and-true hockey-star script of keeping his answers short.
“No, I knew I was coming back to the NHL,” he said. “I was fully confident of that. It was just a matter of when, and, when I got that opportunity, to take full advantage of it.”
Kane will be a free agent this summer, so it’s good business not to wax too poetic about what Edmonton has meant to him.
“It’s fun when you’re winning,” he said of his playoff success, with 10 goals in 10 playoff matches. “And I want that feeling to last as long as I can. I’m just trying to do my part, to bring what I can to this team.”
On what was a remarkable night for the Oilers, Kane chose to let his actions speak louder than his words.