Evander Kane all but scratched himself against the Vancouver Canucks. He decided to miss a game he was looking forward to and seemed excited that very morning. There seemed to be something missing to the story and late Thursday afternoon, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet let everyone know that Kane had decided to not play in the game Tuesday night because earlier that day he had gone to a team meeting in a track suit, a team rule violation, and his teammates decided that the best way to deal with this was to take his track suit and throw it in the shower. Read their solution again. They decided that the best solution to breaking a rule was to take something that is Kane's and throw it in the shower.
There should be some discussion about the potential bullying scenario. For years I was bullied in elementary school. At the end of grade 7 I was in science class when I had enough. There was a substitute in that day as our teachers were busy making the classes for next year. My backpack was kicked and I was called Caraboo one too many times. I left the room to go see the guidance counsellor in tears. My teachers were all there and heard what had happened. My science teacher made me promise to go see him if anything like that happened again. I continued on with my reclusive ways until I moved onto my local high school and was treated better. It was not that I was an asshole to people. The problem was I was different (read socially awkward) than my peers and they used this against me. It seems that way with Kane. And he finally broke.
Dean Millard of Sportsnet noted that when the Jets were still the Atlanta Thrashers that his teammates cut up a pair of his sweats. While this may point to Kane not listening to older teammates, it also points to the probable conclusion that teaching Kane to be a professional they may have resorted to simply ganging up on Kane and forcing him to comply with industry standards when what he was doing was not causing harm to anyone.
A key part to note is Kane was scratched, not suspended. Paul Maurice felt that he had not done something so terrible that he deserved to be suspended. It can be argued that refusing to play a game is a reason to suspend a player. If Kane felt like he was being bullied and simply could not be in the same vicinity of his teammates. How Kane went about it was wrong though. He should have talked to Maurice and Cheveldayoff if the way his teammates were teaching him lessons was bothering him. There were other options. Kane was also placed on injured reserve retroactive to February second. Everything the Jets have done since the Vancouver game shows empathy and understanding for Kane, even if the actual handling of the situation was bungled.
The fact Kane is the main person taking heat in this fine bungling is a farce. Everyone bungled this. The public relations arm of the Jets bungled this by not getting ahead of the story. The management and coaching staff bungled this by not stepping in sooner. And Kane bungled this by not acting like an adult when he needed to and talking to the pertinent people. Everyone enabled this behaviour by not saying anything. The story could have been controlled.
Where do they go from here? Kane is currently on injured reserve and it will be determined in the coming days if he will get season ending shoulder surgery according to Renaud Lavoie. If he does elect for surgery, that gives the Jets time to figure everything out without having a black cloud hanging over the team. Cheveldayoff can pit teams against each other in a bid to get a bigger return for Kane if the only solution club and player can agree to is a trade. If club and player agree Kane can remain a functional member of the team, than Kane can focus on rehabilitating his standing with his colleagues.
No one person is without blame here. No one person did something so wrong that they should be fired into the sun. What is being seen is the bungling of a situation for so long that it seems as though Kane has to be traded in short order or the MTS Centre is going to explode and there will be riots at Portage and Main. This will not happen of course, but it seems that way. Everything seems the worst at first. Tomorrow, everything will not seem as bad. The Jets will play Chicago with Patrice Cormier somewhere in the bottom six and the third line will resemble a fourth line, but things will be calmer. It has to be.
This is Cheveldayoff's first real test as a general manager and so far he is failing. He should have talked to the media today to calm the waters. He should have stepped in earlier to prevent this from happening. If that meant trading Kane before it got so bad, so be it. It did not mean and does not mean sitting there twiddling ones thumbs while the rest of the hockey world takes wild stabs at what has transpired over the past few days with the Jets. It means decided which players the team deems the core and insulating those players in a safe and inclusive environment.
Other teams have done this, even if no one has realized it because all the crap remained unexposed. Looking back, Marc Bergevin did that with the Montreal Canadiens when it came to Erik Cole and Josh Gorges. They made P.K. Subban's life tougher, so he traded them. Both moves seemed like cap moves at the time, but as things slowly come out, it seems as it was a way of protecting a young player for veterans who did not treat that player in a way that the general manager thought was appropriate.
Fixing this would have been easier before it got out of control. It did and where the Jets stand now is at the edge of a cliff looking out over yonder. Whatever happens now will be defining for the Jets. Whatever happens now will tell us if they jump or if they run and hide when faced with a tough decision.