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Evander Kane: why trading talent is not the answer

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Evander Kane is sometimes an enigma wrapped up with hockey skills. He is one of the Jets best players...and infinitely more valuable on the team than on the trade market.

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Evander Kane was healthy scratched again at the coach's discretion. Usually the team will explain why and then move on. This has not happened. Instead, Paul Maurice said it was not guaranteed that Kane returns to the lineup on Friday, which has led to more questions about what Kane did that was so egregious. Although it is no fans right to know what is going on behind closed doors with a team, but if the team does not control the narrative than the story will come out messier than anyone ever wanted.

The NHL has a long list of players that have been traded for off ice indiscretions rather than on ice performance. While it makes sense that a team holds their players to a certain standard, there are many risks to trading a player for their behaviour rather than their performance. Tyler Seguin, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter are all recent examples of players who have been traded because of how they acted when they were not at the rink. Why do teams continue to not learn from past mistakes and trade players because of their character? No one knows exactly.

The emphasis placed on character, especially by old-timers, is interesting. Read any story about Guy Lafleur and you would learn that the man, although a great player, he was not known for being a character player off the ice. His play on the ice dictated that he was more of an asset to the Montreal Canadiens than if they traded him. Lafleur stayed and in the end the Canadiens won five Stanley Cups with him. No one really cared that he was not an angel off the ice.

I am not saying that Kane is Lafleur; far from it. Lafleur is an extreme example of why a team should stick with a player, even if that player never grows into a character guy off the ice. To assume that a team will be made up of 23 good guys who are never late for meetings and will always do the right thing is asinine.

A better set of examples of players being traded because of character are the recent trades of Seguin, Richards, and Carter. All three were moved because they partied too much and were not the most reliable teammates. While Richards is now in the AHL after not being able to live up to his contract on the Los Angeles Kings, Seguin and Carter have flourished since being traded. The former is now one of the NHL's leading scorers and the latter has been a key cog in two Stanley Cup wins in four years. Maybe their character is not so bad after all. None of the teams trading the players with questionable character got full value back for the player. At first it looked as though the Philadelphia Flyers traded Carter and Richards at a loss; hindsight has shown that is not the case, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are probably regretting trading for Carter and than trading him away in short order.

Not getting full value for a player for off-ice reasoning means that a player who is perceived to be of poor character is more valuable to their current team than they will ever be on the trade market. The hockey world is a small, insular community and word travels fast. Unless the player is disturbing the team so badly that the team can simply no longer manage with the player in their midst, the team in question is almost always better off holding onto the player and letting them grow up or leave in free agency. Being forced into a move is the worst possible end to any concerns about a player.

The argument should be made that once a player is traded, they get shaken up a bit and realize that they have to change their ways. Maybe that is true. Maybe being moved and having to learn that you are not the special snowflake that you were treated as with your original team does something to a player. Maybe it does not though. And even if that is what happened, does it help a team to trade a player at 75 cents on the dollar because they are of poor character in the eyes of their current team? Trade Kane would be a massive mistake for the Jets right now because his value is not at its highest level and he represents offensive depth, something that the Jets sorely lack.

Corsi is all shot attempts, including blocked shots. Zone starts is the fraction of face-offs taken in the offensive or defensive zone.

Kane is the left wing who takes the most defensive zone starts and still manages to have a positive on-ice Corsi differential. While this stat is not perfect, it paints a good picture of what Evander Kane means to the Jets. Although he is not the first line left winger that it was envisioned he would be when the Atlanta Thrashers drafted him fourth overall in 2009 or the player many thought he would be when the Jets moved here in 2011, Kane is still a key part of the Jets team and getting full value for him at this point is near impossible.

Trading Kane means the Jets are willing to take the loss on him and lose valuable depth for lesser players because they are no longer willing to work with Kane off the ice. This is not the most prudent of plans because as hard as it is to admit, Andrew Ladd is aging and at some point will be gone or have depreciated enough that he is a lesser asset and player than Kane. Ladd is still superior to Kane defensively, but Kane is better at producing shots/60. Both players are valuable to the Jets and instead of thinning out the depth for an already thin forward core, the Jets should only be adding to it.

With Kane in the lineup the Jets have three left wingers who can drive play and score. This is invaluable for a team that is relying on goaltending that may or may not be around league average and a defence that has a funky distribution of ice time. The Jets need Kane, immature or not, to help them win. They need Kane to show them that he can be counted upon for every game, unless he is injured. If he is habitually late for games or practice, he is not acting professionally.

The Jets hold some responsibility here. Instead of simply saying "healthy scratch, coach's decision" they should have elaborated on the reason as to why Kane was scratched. No one knows why he was scratched and now there are rumours that Kane is a problem child. Because the narrative was not controlled from the beginning by the Jets, everyone is speculating on what is going on with Kane. There are rumours. There are no facts. Controlling the narrative means controlling what people know, even if the narrative is not the actual fact, it can make Kane look like less of a "problem" so if the Jets do end up trading him his value is higher than if he has concerns about his off-ice character.