The Edmonton Oilers just keep on rolling, with Thursday night's 4-2 win over the Seattle Kraken making it 12 in a row. They have now equalled the record for consecutive victories by a Canadian NHL team (the Montreal Canadiens) and are just five short of the overall all-time record (the Pittsburgh Penguins).
There was plenty of credit to go around among the players, as they recovered from an early 2-0 deficit versus the Kraken. Three goals in just 7:01 minutes gave the Oilers a lead which they would not relinquish.
Among those deserving credit was Evander Kane, who reached 600 for his career after notching two assists. It was undoubtedly one of his best games in a while, at a time when it was desperately needed.
Even as the Oilers have gone on their franchise-record winning streak, it's almost as if some fans still need to find something to be unhappy about. As a result, Kane has been receiving plenty of criticism recently.
Certainly the 2009 fourth overall draft pick has not been at his best of late, but the grief he's been receiving from so-called fans has still been unnecessary. It doesn't take much to work out why he's been struggling on the ice.
This is alluded to, with Kane not being his usual physical self, which is very much a forte and a constant of his game. As per David Staples of the Edmonton Journal, the winger averaged 4.3 hits in October and 3.7 during November.
The number of average hits went down to 2.5 in December and now, 1.9 through seven games during January. It doesn't help that Kane has only managed seven combined points in 18 games during December and January (including the two against the Kraken).
As a result, a certain segment of the Oilers fan base has been highly critical of the 32-year-old. However, you have to wonder if these are people who have just never liked him anyway, and didn't want the team to sign him in the first place due to his controversial past.
Impacted by injuries
The reason we suggest this, is because Kane's downturn in form has coincided with him dealing with physical ailments. He was forced to miss the important fixture versus the Los Angeles Kings at the end of December, and was a doubt to face the Kraken on Thursday night.
The questionable status and late inclusion for the Kraken game was officially due to a hand issue. In addition, the Vancouver native was noticeably limping as the team came out for the game, due to an ongoing groin problem:
Pure and simple, Kane has been doing his best to continue playing and contributing through his injury issues. This sounds like someone who is being selfless and wanting to do his best for the Oilers, as opposed to being a selfish malcontent.
When your game is all about being physical but your hits are going down, it's pretty clear the former Buffalo Sabre is struggling with his health. The Oilers have given him maintenance days and practice time off, but of course this can only help to a certain extent.
Words taken out of context
Again though, some fans just won't have it, as they even try to use Kane's words against him as evidence he just doesn't want to be in Edmonton. For example, there were certain answers and just his body language in general during his postgame interview for the Kraken game:
However, in our opinion this is more about just still being frustrated by the recent injury issues, while also more than likely feeling the effects postgame. In addition, Kane is clearly weary of the media in general, and with good reason.
A prime example of this came earlier this season, in an interview during the first intermission versus the Winnipeg Jets. While speaking to to Scott Oake of CBC Sports, the 2007 Memorial Cup champion said:
"Yeah, I didn’t play much in the first period, so I thought I might as well get into a fight and take seven or eight minutes in the box."
This resulted in fans and media alike calling Kane selfish and suggesting he was only thinking of himself. Further, that he was taking a subtle shot at then Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft, about a lack of playing time.
However, the 2009 WHL West first team All-Star wasn't having any of it, and provided more context when he next spoke to the media. He said:
"It’s really easy to view that as complaining about ice time, when they don’t clip the question and they just clip my answer right? So like, a lot of the times when I’ve talked about the media, there’s always a lack of context and that was a great example of something being taken, a quote from me without there even being a question involved. So people are going to take it as they may."
Irresponsible and unreasonable
While we can't relate to the full extent of what Kane himself is having to contend with, it's extremely frustrating when people have it in for him, despite his efforts to be a more responsible person since arriving in Edmonton. And make no doubt that he has been, with it pretty clear he is extremely grateful to the Oilers for taking a chance on him when most others wouldn't, resulting in a feeling of extreme loyalty to the organisation.
It's even worse when certain folks are twisting anything which happens or is said, just to fit into a narrative they have created in their own minds. This is just irresponsible and unfair; how would those same people like it, if it was done for them?
Let's also not forget earlier in this season, when even the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were struggling, and it was Kane who was leading the way. His example, effort and production included a 14-game spell during November, when he had 14 points.
As a final point, it should be noted Kane seems to be beginning to find some form again. We mentioned his aforementioned two helpers versus the Kraken, while he registered five hits in the previous game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Overall, when taking everything into account, the 2021 San Jose Sharks player of the year deserves more leeway. For those who don't want to give it, they should take a look in the mirror and ask themselves some serious questions.