Phil Housley has made it very clear all that's happened with the Buffalo Sabres will stay in the past. Ask the new coach about something that cropped up during last year's winter of discontent and he's not too interested in discussing it.
Housley is taking the blank canvas approach with this team. Anyone can make a new first impression and that includes Evander Kane.
The burly forward was the Sabres' top goal scorer last season and will remain the left winger on the top line at the start of this year. Housley wasn't afraid to name Kane an alternate captain for some games during the preseason and expects him to have a say in the team's leadership group going forward as well.
"He's a veteran guy and I don't take into regard what has happened in the past," Housley insisted Monday in KeyBank Center. "I only see what's in front of me day to day. Evander has been a great role model for our guys on and off the ice. He's a hard worker. He leads by example and that's part of the reason. You're moving the 'A' around to different individuals to see how our team reacts, to see what they have to say and how they fit in."
Cynics will quickly point out Kane as a role model is a tad overstated given some of his past indiscretions off the ice and former General Manager Tim Murray's criticisms of his practice approach last year. For his part, however, it's been nearly 16 months since Kane has run into any trouble and he's happy Housley is keeping lines of communication open.
"Phil said himself he's an honest guy and he's been backing that up with his actions," Kane said. "That's all you can really ask for as players. Everything he does on and off the ice with our systems and his opinion of how we play is pretty honest and I think that's great."
"It's simple for me. We want to come in with a clean slate and a fresh start and that's why we looked at it that way," Housley said. "I've seen nothing but positive things from Evander and our whole group in general. Obviously we didn't have the exhibition wins and losses where we thought they would be but that's part of the process."
The Sabres went 1-4-1 in preseason and scored only 12 goals in six games. Kane had one goal and one assist in four appearances while leading the club with 14 shots on goal.
Kane had a team-high 28 goals last year — his most in five seasons — and that came even though he missed 11 games due to broken ribs in the season opener and didn't score in December. Kane had 25 of his goals in 5-on-5 play and was one of the most productive players in the league at even strength for a three-month stretch.
Assuming he stays healthy for the season and isn't used as a rental pawn at the deadline, the Sabres have designs on Kane cracking the 30-goal mark and heading toward 40. So does he.
"I always have goals. Everybody that walks into training camp has goals in mind for themselves," Kane said. "I just want to score as many as I can. I try to score every game, every time I'm on the ice. Whatever those totals would be, it would be a lot. That's not going to happen but I just want to be as consistent as I can. After I scored my first goal, I thought I was pretty consistent and had a good pace going. I just want to start that this time in Game One."
Housley said he felt Kane was one of his team's most consistent players in preseason and wants to see him keep shooting the puck. The Sabres had 42 shots and four goals in their 5-4 loss Wednesday in Pittsburgh but struggled offensively the rest of the preseason.
"We've got to have more of a shot mentality," Housley said. "I saw it in Pittsburgh. We had that mindset. The result wasn't there and I don't think the hockey gods have been very good to us this preseason but hopefully we'll make that turn.
"We had that shot mindset one game to this point and we scored four goals. If you continue to do that, things will open up. Players realize the puck is going there and that's where you get second and third opportunities. We've just got to keep hammering that message."