Buffalo Sabres: Is Evander Kane Ready to Take the Next Step?


Buffalo Sabres: Is Evander Kane Ready to Take the Next Step?

More from Buffalo Sabres

After suffering the worst two seasons in franchise history, the Buffalo Sabres are ready to turn things around. For any such resurgence to happen, Evander Kane will be expected to play a major role.

This leads to the question of if the 2009 fourth overall draft pick is ready to take the next step, and finally fulfill his potential? Up to this point, his professional career has been blighted by inconsistency and controversy.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forgot that Kane is only 24, with his best years still ahead of him. With a contract that runs through the 2017-18 season, the Sabres are in a position to hopefully benefit, as he enters his prime.

However, in order for this to happen, the Vancouver, BC native must grow up and show that he is capable of staying away from trouble. Rumors of clashes with coaches and teammates have led to a less than favorable portrayal around the league.

Dec 31, 2013; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane (9) snaps his stick while battling Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers (57) during the first period at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The most high profile incident happened last season, when Kane apparently showed up for a Jets team meeting in a tracksuit. Players are expected to wear suits for meetings – common hockey etiquette – and Dustin Byfuglien responded to this lack of respect by throwing the tracksuit into the showers.

Unfortunately, these alleged indiscretions haven’t been limited to Kane’s career, having also faced legal issues away from the ice. An allegation of assault and a refusal to pay outstanding traffic tickets, haven’t exactly helped his reputation.

And let’s not forget the infamous case of tweeting a photo of himself during the NHL lockout in 2012, holding stacks of money on a hotel balcony and pretending it was a telephone. Personally, I believe this incident was blown out of proportion, although his timing was admittedly poor, with the players and owners embroiled in a dispute over money.

Of course, the Sabres would also like to see Kane blossom on the ice. Despite his inconsistent form, there have been plenty of glimpses of his superior talent.

More from Tip of the Tower

To date, his best season was the 2011-12 campaign, the first year after the Winnipeg Jets returned to the NHL, via relocation from Atlanta. The 2009 WHL First-Team All-Star, set career highs of 30 goals, 27 assists and 57 points.

It is a measure of Kane’s talent, that he is expected to exceed these numbers. In that respect, it will be important for him to avoid injury, something which can never be guaranteed.

In that respect, the 2009 World Junior Championships goal medal winner was limited to a career-low 37 games last season. He underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, prior to being traded to Buffalo in February.

Fortunately, Kane was back on the ice for the first time last month, and is well ahead of schedule in his recovery. With the regular season just over two months away, he is expected to be ready and raring to go on opening night.

Overall, the seventh year veteran is part of a youthful core which is expected to return the Sabres to prominence. Indeed, when you add his name to a list that includes the likes of Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Ennis, Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, the fans excitement and anticipation is entirely understandable.

However, it remains to be seen how much Kane is prepared to apply the commitment and discipline needed to succeed. He may never find himself in a better position to take the necessary steps towards becoming a bona fide superstar in the NHL.

Next: Is Russ Brandon the right choice for the Sabres?