Paul Maurice announced Evander Kane’s indefinite knee injury today as “better news than I was expecting.” Re-evaluation is scheduled for two weeks, with a week-to-week timeline to follow. It’s not long term, which is good for the player, but with the Jets in a tough Central Division, the team was hopeful for a playoff birth. No Jets fan needs to be told an injury to Kane this is bad for those hopes but anxiety is rising at the question ‘how bad?’. Maurice offered pre-season darling Matt Halischuk as a salve, but Kane means more to this club than the vertical speed Halischuk brings.
What can we expect to see over the next few weeks with Evander Kane out of the lineup?
How Good is Evander Kane?
Hockey media tends to lose perspective on player scoring rather quickly, and his offensive impact was downplayed during all the trade talk. Kane is the only Jet to score 30 goals in a season in the team’s brief history and has been a one-man second line since the team moved north.
It’s been an odd three seasons – two injury shortened and one lockout shortened – but Kane has averaged 57 points per 82 games over that span. His 2.00 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time put him third on the team over the last three seasons. Moreover, while Ladd and Wheeler ahead of him have had each other and Little to play with, Kane has lined up with 13 different forwards for more than 100 even strength minutes (and another 13 defenders, FYI).
More than just scoring, Kane’s speed and physicality have been a hallmark of the Jets’ transition play.
What Is the Lineup Without Him?
The Jets have a large drop in scoring ability between their top-6 and bottom-6 this year. Dustin Byfuglien moved to left wing with Scheifele and Wheeler and we can imagine that unit continues to score effectively. Instead, the primary effect on the roster will be in the two lines below.
Despite Matt Halischuk’s impressive pre-season, he remains a flawed player who fell off the roster of a team that couldn’t afford to lose scoring. His best season saw him score 28 points in 73 games for Nashville. But he’s managed just 36 points in the rest of his 130 NHL games. We know he’s a counter-punch player who doesn’t bring a lot else to the club. His 44% corsi share for the Jets last year was actually a touch above his 43.6% career rate, and his corsi relative to his competition was worse than analytics-whipping boy Chris Thorburn. He doesn’t hit, block shots, or do any of the things old-school hockey minds associated with defence. He spends most of his time in his own end being out-shot. And when he does use his speed to counter-attack, he doesn’t manage to score well.
It’s hard to imagine a line with promising rookie Adam Lowry, new guy Matthieu Perrealt and Matt Halischuk is better than the third line of Halischuk, then-rookie Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik a year ago. That line had a game with two goals that bought them some warm feelings, but ultimately got buried at evens and gave up a lot more than they created.
The Jets are currently playing a group of four forwards who had a sum of 40 points a year ago (average of 10 each) and were each sub-50% possession players. One injury has revealed the team’s lack of depth, and it’s unlikely to be the last injury of the year.
God speed, Evander.