EDMONTON — Ken Holland won’t be firing Dave Tippett, but he will be taking a run at Evander Kane, having spoken already with Kane’s agent Dan Milstein.
The former stance is pragmatic, patient. All about not reacting to a bad six weeks after two-plus seasons of improvement; about building something with legs.
The other? Knee-jerk and short-sighted. Weak-willed temptation from the oiliest pages of the pro sports playbook.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, a veteran general manager who has witnessed the instability caused by coaching turnover. A GM who can tell you, “There have been seven coaches here in 10 years. You can’t just keep whipping through coaches.” Yet, Holland is a man who has watched Evander Kane burn through bridges across the NHL for over a decade, and is wooed by the six-foot-two, 210-pound winger who can score, fight and make your team better in-game.
On one front, Holland is conservative. On the other, he’s willing to take a chance that three of his colleagues have taken, and walked away with third-degree burns.
“When the situation doesn’t work out somewhere else, to give someone an opportunity? Do I believe in it?” Holland asked, by way of clarifying the question. “The answer is yes.”
That, of course, does not come close to satisfying the questions surrounding the pursuit of Evander Kane.
Please, don’t make the mistake of comparing Holland’s interest in Kane to the time he gave Dan Cleary one final chance, and was rewarded with a sturdy role player and excellent person. Cleary’s issues were personal. Much like Zack Kassian, those players lived destructive off-ice lives due to substance or alcohol abuse that did not allow them to be the player everyone knew they could be.
Both took their “last chance” and made good, conquering their demons and resurrecting their NHL careers. Bravo.
“I believe in second chances,” Holland said Tuesday, in reference to Kane.
Hey, who doesn’t? You’d have to be a real dour soul to deny a fellow human being a second chance.
Craig MacTavish needed a second chance after making one horrible mistake that landed him in a Massachusetts prison. He became a pillar in the community (and a very good hockey player) — a gleaming example of how a “second chance” can turn out.
Evander Kane, however, is not any of those people.
Kane’s indiscretions have hurt others — mostly women — and not just himself. And he’s made them over and over again.
The subject of multiple court complaints surrounding the physical mistreatment of women, Kane has not been found guilty by the courts in these matters. He did fake a vaccine card while with the San Jose Sharks only this season however, and earned a reputation in Winnipeg of high roller who refused to tip when comped, or would simply walk out on tabs.
Was it industry hearsay? OK, then why always Kane, and not Mark Scheifele or Dustin Byfuglien?
Why did the Jets dressing room reject Kane? Then the Sabres? Then the Sharks?
A forged vaccine card is the 2022 tell-all sign of what kind of person he truly is. Team rules are for everyone else, but not for Kane.
Holland looks at the player and reminds himself that when San Jose acquired him at the Trade Deadline on an expiring contract, Kane had 9-5-14 in 17 stretch-run games, and another four playoff goals.
Maybe under certain circumstances, he can help the Oilers win. But as his experience with the Sharks showed, his willingness to be a team player doesn't always last.
Which tells us that he is smart enough to know how to fit in, and talented enough to make your team better on the ice.
What everyone in the industry realizes, however, is that the selfish have a timeline on any personal constraint. After a period of fitting in as a regular, cooperative member of any team or society, that person will reward themself with a return to becoming who they really are:
Selfish, selfish, selfish.
The man is 30 years old.
So, go ahead. Tell yourself it will be different in Edmonton. That the player is worth it, the way Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer — a smart, perceptive and experienced head coach — did upon Kane’s signing in 2018.
“You don’t find guys like this unless you’re picking in the top three, four guys in the draft, and no one wants to be there,” DeBoer said that day. “When you’re signing free agents, especially elite players and guys that are going to play huge roles for you, you really want to know about them as much as possible. And you really don’t know a player until you stand behind the bench and are around them every day. So that was a nice luxury to have. I think we all felt comfortable that this was a guy that could help us win.”
Today, their dressing room having rejected the player, the Sharks are in a legal battle to nullify Kane’s contract.
So go ahead. Get in line behind Doug Wilson, behind the Buffalo Sabres, behind the Winnipeg Jets. Behind the casino that fronted Kane all that dough. Behind all those restauranteurs that watched him walk.
Give Evander Kane a fifth or sixth chance.
Just don’t tell us you are giving him a second chance.
Because he’s already burned through a stack of those.