Evander Kane has to rate as one of the most complex personalities to ever walk through the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room. But his time here was clearly over. Having watched his first two games with the San Jose Sharks, you're blown away by what he could mean to a good team, especially what he could bring to a playoff run.
This corner has so many thoughts on Kane that they're tough to organize. He was just a difficult guy to comprehend at times. Here's what stands out in the wake of the trade:
1. Kane had to go to a veteran team that would direct him and tell him in no uncertain terms how things were going to be run. He was reportedly picked up at the airport in San Jose in a limo by Joe Thornton. The roster includes guys like Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Marc-Eduoard Vlasic and Joel Ward. These guys have played a lot of hockey in May and June, when Kane has long been on a beach somewhere. He darn well better listen.
2. Kane's speed was really on display during the games against Edmonton and Chicago as the Sharks rang up 12 goals. His motivation was just about shot during his final few weeks with the Sabres and we rarely saw those bursts on the ice like we did in October and November. You can chalk it up to selfishness and you can chalk it up to human nature, too. The Sabres didn't want Kane anymore and he knew it. Why risk himself for them?
3. When Kane arrived here in 2015, you expected an ogre to deal with given everything you heard out of Winnipeg. The reality was far from it. He was almost always a pleasant interview subject and had plenty to say. And especially on the road with no cameras around, travel and baseball often became conversation points. Kane knew he had to remake his image here with the media and he did a good job of it. But no reporter was naive to what was going on either.
4. Sabres players bemoaned the loss of Kane's offense. But at least publicly, there weren't a lot of well-wishes either in person or on social media toward him. It continues to feel like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart were his two biggest boosters on the club and the rest of the team didn't have much use for him at times. You worry about what kind of influence Kane has had on Eichel as a leader and potential captain going forward. Still, good players are often the biggest divas on teams. Why is so much credibility handed to a journeyman like Justin Falk calling Kane "selfish" during a practice tiff? Even if other players agree with him, how many of them are going to be around here anyway?
5. The Sabres' lack of leadership was unable to corral Kane when it was needed. Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges are super humans but the decline in their play as they got older made their ability to lead difficult. Kane and the Sabres' young core in general didn't listen much to either one of them and there were no other real veterans in the room to direct traffic. Like Tim Murray said, Kane needed to stop showing up just before the team's report time for games and practices and interact with his teammates more. He didn't.
6. Kane's image off the ice, of course, continued to take a beating in Buffalo. His reputation with women was left in tatters by the two very public incidents he had early in his tenure here and you saw a lot of good-riddance social media posts from female Sabres fans after the trade. Seems like they were willing to accept rooting for him to a small degree when he was still on the team but were more than happy to see him go. Understandable.
7. Kane's image off the ice II: He genuinely loved his interaction with children here, something he specifically mentioned in his farewell video. The holiday shopping spree at Target, the dinner at Tempo, the visits to hospitals and schools are all commendable. They were greeted with a fair amount of skepticism by some, again as image-building moments in the wake of Winnipeg. Certainly there had to be some of that, but Kane made numerous visits and not all of them got publicized either.
8. GM Jason Botterill had to think he was getting more than he did for Kane. It just shows you how little other teams thought of a guy who was only 26 years old and on his third straight 20-goal season. NHL GMs aren't big on personality and Kane has lots of panache. Only a team like San Jose full of veterans could reasonably take a chance on him. Anaheim, with a similar room featuring the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and old friend Ryan Miller, was reportedly also a top contender.
Botterill probably should have pushed harder to make a move on Kane earlier in the season when he was super hot and the Sabres were already toast but back then, who's taking a chance on a rental in, say, December? Too many teams don't know if they're buyers or sellers so the GM's hands may have been tied. But in general, Botterill has done too little during the season to try to fix the Sabres. Maybe they were unfixable in his mind, but the lack of activity has been a huge disappointment.
9. What happens during free agency? The Sharks would likely be interested if Kane has a good playoff run. Still, reputations are hard to shake. A goal scorer like Kane at age 26 should probably get a deal of five to six years at $6 million to $7 million per season. At 28, the Sabres gave Kyle Okposo seven years and $42 million. You wonder what Kane thought watching Okposo on the ice at times the last two years. Kane will struggle to get four years come July unless he blows up deep into May. The bet here is San Jose keeps him on or Kane signs on for a trip home to Vancouver.
10. True to social media, Kane has quickly changed the banner photo on his Twitter page to one of him skating through the Shark mouth on to the ice at SAP Center. It's maybe the best team intro in the league.
— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) February 28, 2018
Singing the Blues
St. Louis slumped at just the wrong time, going 0-5-1 and getting shut out in their final two games prior to the deadline. It prompted management to recoil some, with GM Doug Armstrong getting a first-round pick in the surprise deal of center Paul Stastny to Winnipeg.
That brought a rare admonishment from player to front office courtesy of center Brayden Schenn.
“Really one or two points out and move a guy that does a lot for us,” Schenn said. “I didn’t expect Stastny to be moved, but I guess with his contract expiring, them getting picks to be used elsewhere or to draft, you kind of just go from there and we’ll see what happens ... Maybe it will fire guys up, give guys more opportunity to do more and that’s one way you can look at it. Teams that are one or two out are kind of loading up right now and we’re one or two out and we kind of ... went the other way."
It got even worse for St. Louis in an 8-3 loss Tuesday in Minnesota but the seven-game skid finally ended with Wednesday's 2-1 win over Detroit. Following the Minnesota game, coach Mike Yeo was fuming.
"You know what? It's a matter of pride as far as I'm concerned," Yeo said. "You give up eight goals, c'mon. We've given up 16 in the last three games. We've always been one of the top defensive teams. The turnovers that we have and the lack of respect that we have for our goaltenders and for the game of hockey — that's ridiculous."
Gostisbehere to salute Stoneman Douglas
Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for two years, has invited members of the school's state championship hockey team to visit with him prior to Sunday's game at Florida. Gostisbehere didn't play hockey at the school, where 17 students and adults were killed in the Feb. 14 mass shooting, because he attended prep schools in Connecticut to play hockey. But he was impressed with how players persevered to win their title – and then returned to school to hang their championship medals around a memorial to the victims.
"The way they handled themselves was pretty cool to see," Gostisbehere told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Obviously the circumstances were a little rough. And what they did with their medals, bringing them to the school for the memorial, was pretty cool. They handled themselves like adults."
Gostisbehere said he's also impressed by the way students at the school are speaking out on the need for change in gun laws.
"I’m not the biggest political guy there is," he said. “But it is my old school. My hometown. And it’s cool to watch these guys stand up for what they truly believe. Obviously, they want some change. It’s cool to see how some of the kids who survived are coming through it."
Around the horn
* The Predators took over first place in the Western Conference with Thursday's 4-2 win in Edmonton that allowed General Manager David Poile to carve a slice of NHL history. The victory, a season-high sixth straight for the Preds, gave Poile the most wins for a GM in NHL history at 1,320, one more than Glen Sather. Poile, the GM in Washington from 1982-97, has been at the helm of the Preds since their inception in 1998.
Big trades. Late-round steals. Consistency.
— NHL (@NHL) March 2, 2018
* The Blackhawks are just 5-13-2 in their last 20 games and were particularly putrid during Thursday's 7-2 loss in San Jose. Wrote Sun-Times wordsmith Mark Lazerus: "After scoring first on an Artem Anisimov snipe just 2:12 into the game, the Hawks fumbled and stumbled through a truly awful defensive performance. The Sharks scored on a 4-on-2, a 2-on-0, a scrambling and sliding mess that resembled a Benny Hill sketch, a redirect (the only normal goal of the bunch) and a 2-on-1." Guess that about covers it.
* The countdown to Seattle is on. A season-ticket drive took just 12 minutes on Thursday – yes, 12 minutes – to get 10,000 deposits for a new team. The total passed 26,000 later in the afternoon. There's no team name yet and there's not even an approval for expansion but it seems like it's just a formality now, with play starting in 2020 or 2021 at a rebuilt Key Arena. By comparison, it took Las Vegas a month to get 10,000 commitments for its ticket drive in 2015, although the club only took local buyers and Seattle stretched into Canada and even Alaska.
* The Jack Johnson saga in Columbus continues to be bizarre. The standout defenseman asked for a trade, then started negotiations with the club on an extension, then waited for a trade, then wasn't dealt. So he'll be an unrestricted free agent come July but remains open to re-signing with the Blue Jackets. Columbus, like other teams, will have to pay: Johnson, 31, is looking for a big payday after his parents scammed him out of much of his career earnings and forced him into a bankruptcy settlement.
* Sour Grapes of the Week Award is an easy one. In an interview with Fox 5 television in New York, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark had this to say about the Islanders and how their move to Brooklyn has been less than stellar: "Unfortunately, it didn’t work. We had great hopes that moving the Islanders to Brooklyn would work. Unfortunately, they were like a rent-a-team. This team never really embraced Brooklyn, unfortunately. Their fan base resides in Long Island. They have a great, avid fan base in Long Island. Brooklyn just didn’t gravitate to the team as I had hoped they would."
A rent-a-team? Just about anyone not in Brooklyn could have told you this wasn't going to work because the Nassau County fan base was largely going to get lost. The Isles are going to be splitting time the next couple of years at Barclays and NYCB Live, the refurbished Nassau Coliseum. Their planned arena by Belmont Park is targeted for the 2021-22 season. Can't come fast enough.
Story topics: Buffalo Sabres/ Chicago Blackhawks/ Evander Kane/ Florida school shooting/ Nashville Predators/ New York Islanders/ Philadelphia Flyers/ San Jose Sharks/ Shayne Gostisbehere/ St. Louis Blues