Evander Kane Provides Missing Ingredient
For years the Sharks featured Patrick Marleau on the wing. An elite goal-scoring winger with size and speed, Marleau was a Sharks fixture. However, for many Sharks fans, Marleau was the type that always left you wanting a little bit more. He was never the type who would fearlessly attack the net knowing there may be a collision. His overall game lacked snarl.
Now before Marleau super fans start rolling their eyes, let me make one thing clear. Players don’t have to fight regularly to have snarl. What I mean by snarl is just that competitive will, drive and get-out-of-my-way attitude. To quote the Jamaican bobsled team movie Cool Runnings, I’m talking about players who “don’t take no crap off of nobody.” Joe Thornton has that snarl, Joe Pavelski has it and Logan Couture does too. Other fan-favourite Sharks of years past had it like Dan Boyle, Marco Sturm, Mike Ricci, and others.
And now so does the newest San Jose Shark, Evander Kane.
In just his first game as a Shark, Kane flashed his high-end speed and nose for the net. Kane nearly scored on two similar wraparound opportunities in quick succession during the first period. With similar size and speed, Kane looked like Marleau out there, but a more physical Marleau, hounding pucks and forcing opponents into turnovers.
Kane would go on to register two assists in his debut, the first of which was a perfect shot-pass to Joe Pavelski. He would also get under the skin of Oilers defenseman Matt Benning. Getting under an opponent’s skin is not something Marleau brings to the table. Guys with speed, size, physical play and a fearless net drive are often ones who get under people’s skin. Kane brings that element.
Even Strength Prowess
In addition to his snarl, Kane brings the Sharks a boost in five-on-five scoring. All season long the Sharks have been in the bottom third in the league in even strength scoring. But as NBC Sports’ Marcus White points out, only 24 NHLers have scored more even-strength goals than Kane has since 2015-16.
Furthermore, Kane’s skill set should be a boon to the scoring numbers for Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. Before Pavelski’s four-point barrage in his first game with Kane, the long-time Shark was on pace for 20 goals and 40 assists for 60 points. Twenty goals would be Pavelski’s lowest full-season goal total since 2010-11. The last three years Pavelski has scored 37, 38 and 29 goals.
With neither Pavelski nor Thornton being particularly fast, speed on their line is even more critical now as they age. In recent years the Sharks have had a revolving door on the left wing spot with the Joes. Marleau, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Kevin Labanc and Brent Burns among others have all spent time on that top line spot.
Kane Can Close Revolving Door
For various reasons though, those players haven’t often stuck. Marleau played with the Joes for years, but as he aged he was often slotted lower in the lineup. Burns obviously became a defenseman again, and neither Karlsson nor Labanc found a consistency to keep the spot. Hertl was the primary mainstay on that line in the Stanley Cup Final run in 2015-16, but the Sharks have often used him on other lines as a centre. Hertl and Thornton also play comparable puck-protection styles down low. It can be argued that it is best to split them up to spread that type of ability onto other lines. Furthermore, a Hertl, Thornton and Pavelski line doesn’t have a single speed threat.
Kane, on the other hand, brings all the key attributes to finally close that revolving door. Obviously, Thornton is still on the mend after his latest knee surgery, but when/if he returns this season, Kane is an ideal fit with the Joes. Thus far we have seen instant chemistry with Kane and Pavelski. Over the years the Sharks top line has at times gotten predictable in Thornton looking to set up Pavelski. But now with Kane, the Sharks have another puck-dominant player who can create chances all by himself, with his speed and craftiness.
Opposing defensemen will no longer be able to primarily focus on Pavelski as the go-to scorer. The Sharks top line now has two elite scorers. Kane can use his speed to drive defensemen back and Pavelski should be able to slide into bigger open spaces, allowing him to better get off his patented wrist shot.
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