Despite Off Ice Troubles, Losing Evander Kane Would be a Huge Blow to the Sabres

Evander Kane has plenty of people who seem to question the idea of having him on the the Sabres. Can you really blame them? He's been called lots of things, and if there's a negative word in the dictionary, chances are Kane has been called it. The latest off the ice incident has a small collection of fans wanting Evander Kane gone. Many fans who still want him in the lineup question how the hell this keeps happening? But if there's one world that can definitely describe him accurately as far as on the ice ability it's gifted. He's a truly gifted hockey player, and he's also a physical specimen, and it show's on the ice. For a player so talented, it frustrates Sabre fans as to why can't this guy just stay out of trouble? Make no mistake about, if you Evander Kane is gone before next season, it would be a huge blow to the Sabres.

Looking back at some of Evander Kane's Greatest Misses off the Ice:

- Instagram money pushups: he posted a picture doing pushups with stacks of money on this back
- Has been accused of skipping out on restaurant bills in Winnipeg (these were unfounded)
- He's been rumored earlier in his career to be uncoachable in Winnipeg
- He's been rumored to bring his girlfriend on road games, despite Winnipeg Jet veteran players trying to teach the kid that road trips are business trips
- He was also rumored to have been in a bar fight in Winnipeg (we don't know if this is true or not)
- He showed up to a team meeting wearing a track suit
- He had a sexual assault allegation last December
- He was suspended by the team last year for oversleeping resulting in him missing practice
- And his latest hit the night before the 2016 NHL draft on Chippewa where he is currently accused of harassment complaints

A Tale of Two Kanes: Comparing Patrick Kane and Evander Kane

Is it quite possible that Buffalo may not even have the worst behaving Kane in the NHL? Patrick Kane has pretty much also been unable to avoid off the ice issues. In 2009, a then 20 year old Patrick Kane was actually arrested and charged with a crime, unlike Evander Kane, and all over a lousy twenty cents from a cab driver. Patrick Kane pleaded guilty and accepted a plea agreement. In 2012, pictures surfaced of him partying in Madison, Wisconsin in a bar with college students. Even before those pictures surfaced, Patrick Kane still had reputation for being a hard partier off the ice. Now is this incident really that bad? Did anybody really care when an underage Jack Eichel was recorded drinking when he was at BU saying the phrase "Buffalo, i'm coming for you"? Did people say, don't draft him, he's a bust? No, and the reason why he wasn't grilled on a Pat Kane or Evander Kane level is because Jack Eichel is not under the microscope the way the two Kanes have been. When you gain a reputation, people are always waiting for you to mess up. They are always waiting to pounce by taking pictures and video with their phones. Then of course last year, there were reports of both Kanes being investigated for sexual assult. The investigation was closed, and Patrick Kane responded with a career year on the ice. Evander Kane bounced back from his situation with a nice 20 goal in 65 game performance and was arguably one of the Sabre's best players. Patrick Kane has some problems, but it hasn't affected his on the ice performance much, and it didn't stop him from winning three Stanley Cups in Chicago. I've never heard anything spill out about Patrick Kane being lazy on the ice or being a bad teammate. Having said that, there are plenty of people who wouldn't want Patrick Kane on their team because they don't approve of his off the ice behavior.

Evander Kane came over with a reputation. He had all sorts of issues in Winnipeg with his teammates. So far, as an on the ice teammate goes in Buffalo, I have not heard anything what so ever out of the Sabre's locker room that Evander Kane has been a bad teammate, or uncoachable. He did have a mishap during last season where he missed practice, but seemed very remorseful for the incident.

To be fair, it's not the first time a player has been suspended in the history of the league for missing practice. It actually happened to Nikita Zadorov two years ago. It also happened to Alexander Ovechkin last year. It happened to Nazem Kadri twice during the 2014-15. It also happened to T.J Oshie when he was with the St.Louis Blues back in 2011. But when Evander Kane does it, Twitter blows up and it's a huge deal. He's not the first player in the history of the league, and he won't be the last. But, it will be blown up like he is the first player to ever miss practice. It's quite funny how you can google search "NHL player misses practice", and a majority of the search hits will bring up Evander Kane missing practice. The next closest thing that pops up in such a search would be Alexander Ovechkin's alarm clock gaffe.

That's what happens when you develop a reputation in the league, you go under the microscope. Yet, I have not heard any stories (yet) about any friction between him and Dan Bylsma, and I've heard nothing about any friction between him and the veterans on this team. He's been involved in two significant off the ice legal incidents over the last two years in Buffalo so far that I put in italics on the list above. One was unfounded, and another is currently ongoing. Lastly, i've never heard anything about his on the ice work ethic being an issue as a player. As far as i've heard, on the ice Evander Kane is a true competitor, and a great worker on the ice. At some point though, you have to realize that as a professional athlete, you have be careful with how you conduct yourself off the ice, which is frustrating with both the Kanes. It would be really interesting to talk to Zach Bogosian about Evander Kane, because he might have the most insight on Kane being that he came with him from the Winnipeg Jets.

It's tough to say which Kane is really worse, and it may not be important to debate, but both players are very important parts of their team, granted in different ways. Patrick Kane is the biggest star of the Blackhawks, and Evander Kane is one of the Sabres star forwards who plays the power forwards game any team needs. For me personally, I love having Evander Kane on this team as long as he doesn't get charged with a crime, or causes havoc in the locker room like Sean Avery would. If Evander Kane does get charged, given the nature of the crime he is accused of, the Sabres would have to move on from him for sure. Such a move will have a negative impact on the Sabres next year.

If Evander Kane is off the team next season, the left wing position on the Sabres is a huge question mark.

Even if Kane is found innocent, the fact that he manages to find his away into these situations is troublesome for the team. The Sabres have a good chance to sign Jimmy Vesey, but we have no idea if he'll sign with 100% certainty. Tyler Ennis can play both left wing and right wing. I'm assuming he will factor into the team's lineup. But he's coming off an injury, and we have no clue how healthy he is going to be, and if he can bounce back. Matt Moulson claims he was out of shape last year. If this is true and he comes to camp back in shape, it could help the Sabres next year, but again, that's a huge question mark. I think there are some fans hoping Okposo can ignite some chemistry with Moulson on a line with O'Reilly, or Eichel. That's another uncertainty with Matt Moulson.

There is a saying I believe in called innocent until proven guilty. Yes, that is an actual thing in America, but unfortunately while you're in the process of being proven guilty, it can cause an issue for your employer. In Evander Kane's case, it's causing an issue for the Buffalo Sabres and Tim Murray. We don't know if Kane will be found innocent, but while they are gathering the evidence, it poses a question mark on Kane's top line left wing spot in the mean time.

Despite off the ice headaches, Evander Kane is invaluable to the Sabres........ on the ice, and losing him would be a huge blow to the Sabres.

I know Jack Eichel will be the best player on the team going forward, but as far as last season went, many would probably say that Ryan O'Reilly was in the discussion for best player on the team. Evander Kane was also very good for the Sabres last season, and was also one of the Sabre's best forwards. If there is ever a time where Evander Kane is not in the lineup for the Sabres, they will miss him, and not from an intangibles or leadership standpoint. A lot of people in Buffalo do not realize how good Evander Kane really is, he's a great player. You could argue that he's one of the top two or three best forwards on the team. He's a stronger 5 on 5 player than O'Reilly, and he's one of the strongest 5 on 5 players in the league, even going back to his Winnipeg days.

For a team that struggled with puck possession last season, Evander Kane was great at it. In fact he was the Sabres best puck possession forward last season.

Kane yielded a 6.7 CF% rel, and a 51.8 CF%, good for first on the Sabres among players who played more than 50 games last season. And overall, if we include defenseman, only Mark Pysyk had better possession numbers, but as we know, Mark Pysyk is no longer with us. For the record, the next best forward in the puck possession department was Sam Reinhart (5.2 CF% rel, 51.4 CF%) followed by Ryan O'Reilly (1.4 CF% rel, 48.7 CF%). Evander Kane has been a positive puck possession player throughout his career.

A big part of the Evander Kane trade was Drew Stafford, who the Sabres sent to the Jets as apart of the package to get him. Stafford was not a good possession player for the Sabres throughout his career. When you swap a forward like Stafford who didn't use his frame the way you'd like him to, and was not a strong possession player, for a guy like Kane who does use his frame and helps drive possession, you've upgraded in a big way.

Evander Kane also racked up some huge minutes last season with the Sabres, minutes that would NOT be easy to replace

He played 17:22 minutes per game last season at even strength, which was good for first on the Sabres. Ryan O'Reilly was second in even strength minutes, racking up 16:22 per game. Kane also managed 1:06 minutes per game on the penalty kill and was one of the most used forwards in shorthanded situations. Other forwards who saw significant time on the penalty kill include: Zemgus Girgensens (1:02/gm), and Brian Gionta (1:25/gm). O'Reilly and Legwand were the only two forwards who averaged over two minutes per game on the penalty kill. Dave Legwand appears to be gone unless he is re-signed before camp. If he is gone, that will free up a lot of his penalty killing minutes which could be picked up by either Evander Kane or Zemgus Girgensens. The penalty kill ranked 9th in the NHL last season.

Overall, in terms of total time on ice, Evander Kane averaged 21:02 minutes per game and was second only to Ryan O'Reilly (21:44). O'Reilly was the most used Sabre forward last year in special teams situations racking up 5:21 minutes per game on the powerplay and penalty kill combined. O'Reilly is a huge asset on special teams. Kane combined for 3:39 minutes per game on special teams, which is second on the Sabres, and was also heavily used in special teams situations.

In terms of goal scoring, Kane played in 65 games, scored 20 goals, and was the Sabre who required the fewest number of games to get to the 20 goal mark. Kane reached the 20 goal mark with 63 games, and Ryan O'Reilly was right behind him with 68 games. From a production standpoint, it's important to remember though that O'Reilly achieves this production while starting more in the defensive zone 53.2% of the time, whereas Kane starts in the offensive zone 52.4% of the time. O'Reilly, like a lot of players in the league gets a lot of his offensive production on special teams, where he had more than a third of his points on the PP and PK. Evander Kane gained most of his production in 5 on 5 and was arguably best 5 on 5 forward last year. He had less than 20% of his points come from special teams.

It's easy to forget that there was a time when the Sabres didn't have enough players like Kane on the ice.

As we know, Kane is a very physical player who does not shy away from contact. Only Nick Deslauriers had more hits per game last season than Kane. Kane finished last season with over 171 hits, and is easily one of the most physical top six left wings in the league only behind guys like Milan Lucic, Justin Abdelkader, Alex Ovechkin, and Chris Kreider. He gives this team a top six physical presence and intimidating presence that for years the team really seemed to lack from the Regier-Ruff era teams. From a list of players that includes: Derek Roy, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Thomas Vanek, Jochen Hecht, Drew Stafford, Jason Pomminville, and Tim Connolly, who the hell provided that element from those Sabre teams in the top six? It always seemed like those teams really needed a Jarome Iginla, and a Michael Peca to get over the hump. Evander Kane was exactly what those Sabre teams needed ten years ago.

And of course, he's not afraid to drop the gloves. This is a guy who KO'ed Matt Cooke. There's a good chance he might also be the Sabres best fighter, which is not overly important because you can always find guys who can fight, but it's a huge bonus that he's willing to drop the gloves. Ask Alex Petrovic how tough Evander Kane is, as he found out three times last year.

How could the Sabres replace Evander Kane in the worse case scenario that he is charged?

I don't believe he will be charged, but you always need to have a plan in place. Priority #1 would have to be getting Jimmy Vesey signed. I wonder if that would make Buffalo even more appealing to Jimmy Vesey if there was a spot vacated by Evander Kane.

They could explore a trade for Rick Nash. It likely wouldn't cost much as the Rangers don't have a lot of wiggle room with his cap hit on the roster to re-sign their kids long term such as Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, or J.T. Miller. New York would probably retain salary to make it happen depending on the return and I don't think it would cost you a guy like a Girgensens, Bailey, Fasching, or Nylander for example. He could be more available as a two rental if the Rangers are out of playoff contention. He had a down year last season, but he's only two years removed from a 40 goal season, and still posted good possession numbers. Worse case scenario is, you bring him in, he sucks, and you just expose him for the expansion draft or buy him out, or trade the contract. A buy out on his contract next summer would cost the Sabres 2.3 million in '17-18, and 2.7 million in '18-19. If he bounces back early next season with the Rangers, the price could rise significantly for a player like Nash even with his cap hit. The Rangers also might just keep him if they get off to a great start next year. He had 15 goals in 60 games last year.

Kris Versteeg and Radim Vrbata are also available as unrestricted free agents.

In conclusion, on the Ice, Evander Kane brings a lot to the table, but that's overshadowed by off ice issues

That's the problem with all of these off the ice incidents because he certainly overshadows how much of an important player Evander Kane is to this team. He has a certain element of flamboyance to him, and almost always manages to find his way into the news for both positive and negative reasons. He loves to live "the life" of a professional athlete, but he hasn't quite learned how to conduct himself as a professional yet. I'm not sure he will ever will. If he hasn't learned by now he may never learn. I would not be surprised if the incidences keep occurring with him, but until he's actually found guilty of something, I have no problem with him being apart of the Sabres organization as long as there are no reports surfacing about him being a locker room disruption in Buffalo. If he starts to rub teammates and coaches the wrong way, then he may have to be moved on from. If he his found guilty of anything, he will have to be moved on from. I hope if he clears his name, that he can stay out of trouble and out of the news for non-hockey related reasons because Evander Kane offers an invaluable type of player. 25 year old power forwards with outstanding possession numbers, who play with grit, and intensity on the ice, and who can rack up top line minutes do not grow on trees, and this is the kind of player the Sabres have lacked for years.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.