Evander Kane maintenance day for Edmonton Oilers leads to questions

Evander Kane was given a maintenance day for Sunday's game in Ottawa, but not everyone is buying the official reasoning for the Oilers sitting the winger.
Edmonton Oilers v Pittsburgh Penguins
Edmonton Oilers v Pittsburgh Penguins / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Sometimes you almost have to feel sorry for Evander Kane ... almost. While there have been plenty of occasions during his NHL career when he has been the author of his own negative press, there's also been times when people have assumed the worst, simply because it involves him.

Just this season alone, a couple of incidents with the Oilers have had critics thinking the worst. More specifically, comments Kane made during intermission in an early-season loss to the Jets and the recent perception of an animated interaction between him and Leon Draisaitl on the bench, in Saturday's loss to the Leafs.

However, in both cases it was simply a case of certain media outlets blowing things out of proportion. Now, we have something seemingly as simple as a maintenance day on Sunday leading to questions and doubts.

Doing what's best for Kane?

Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch was asked about the decision by the coaching and training staff, to sit Kane for Sunday's game in Ottawa versus the Senators. Speaking to the media ahead of the game, Knoblauch said: "I think it was best. Evander I'm sure would like to play through it. He is a competitor, a warrior. ... We felt for the long run it's best for him not to play."

Now this seems to be fair enough, with Knoblauch alluding to an ongoing minor injury issue. However, as per comments by Elliotte Friedman on Monday's 32 Thoughts : The Podcast, the media in attendance in Ottawa are not buying the Oilers coach's comments and reasoning for sitting his winger.

Now Friedman did referenced the conspiracy theory that Kane was benched for Sunday's game, as a result of his conversation with Draisaitl during the previous night's loss in Toronto. However, as we have stated in our own opinion, the Sportsnet hockey insider did not think it looked that bad.

More physicality needed

However, what Friedman didn't like on Saturday night, was that Draisaitl and Connor McDavid got pushed around by the Leafs. In this respect, he wondered if Kane's absence was a healthy scratch rather than a maintenance day.

More specifically, that the Oilers wanted to send a message about the lack of physical response by their players in Toronto, particularly Kane. However, as Friedman described it, not pour gasoline onto the situation, hence why they called it a maintenance day rather than a healthy scratch.

Certainly the overall performance was extremely disappointing in Toronto, with the Oilers being thoroughly outplayed. They were down 5-0 after two periods -- which was their biggest deficit since the season-opening 8-1 humiliation in Vancouver -- and the 6-3 final scoreline was arguably flattering to them.

From our perspective, while Kane has indeed had lingering injury issues for quite a while, you know he would have played on Sunday if it was up to him. Further, it did seem that Knoblauch lacked conviction in what he was saying to the media in Ottawa, at times searching for and stumbling over his words.

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Ultimately though, assuming Friedman's take is indeed correct -- and certainly it does make a lot of sense -- we like the approach the Oilers took, especially with a player who is renowned to be a bit of a hot head, albeit having calmed down a lot since arriving in Edmonton. Essentially, they just about towed the line perfectly between sending a message to Kane but also not embarrassing him publicly, with the hope/expectation that it inspires him to perform better.

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