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Connor Brown’s Ongoing Struggles Now Impacting Evander Kane

Evander Kane doesn’t love that he’s not getting great opportunities to help produce during a recent 10-game run. Is Connor Brown the issue?

It’s one thing when a player just can’t score and you have to try and judge an overpriced contract on a the basis of how it will affect re-signing or trading said player. When it comes to Connor Brown, there are two problems. First, the Edmonton Oilers are learning quickly that his signing was a mistake, especially given the bonus structure of the deal he signed and how it’s going to affect next season’s salary cap. Second, he’s playing well enough that he’s somewhat useful in certain roles, but not at the expense of more offensive threats. With those two things in mind, when you add how the dominos are falling around the rest of the lineup, namely Evander Kane, Brown’s continued struggles are especially troubling.

This is not to say that Brown doesn’t offer some positives. He does. He’s getting a few chances and he’s penalty killing with great success. That said, he’s got practically not production to speak of and the insistence to keep him in the lineup is now a problem considering his linemates are relatively unproductive too.

Evander Kane Heritage Classic
Evander Kane Heritage Classic

No more is this the case than for Kane, who, because the Oilers have won 10 straight games, is stuck on the third line. On Saturday, Kane got a bit of an elevated look thanks to an illness to Ryan McLeod, but for the most part, Kane is acting as a top-nine forward, not a top-six one. That’s not ideal. It would be fine if his linemates could offer something more than a few minutes per game of “don’t get caved-in hockey.” But, between Brown and Derek Ryan, there’s really no one there to bring another element of offense and Kane’s production has dipped as a result.

Kane Isn’t Thrilled, But Knows It’s Best to Ride This Out For Now

When asked about his production and playing time, Kane responded, “Obviously I’m not getting the same opportunity as I did in the first part of the season. So I think that’s definitely a factor.” He added, “When you don’t really play on the power play, and I don’t kill penalties anymore, opportunities are limited. I just have to try to make the most with what I’m getting.”

When asked if he’s familiar with having to try and make the most out of little ice time, he said, “Nope.” “Honestly, I’ve never had this level of opportunity ever in my career. Not even my rookie year.” 

He also knows it’s not best to stir the hornet’s nest when the team is winning. Back in the playoff spot and on a 10-game streak, the Oilers aren’t going to change much. Why would they? Fixing something that isn’t broken makes little sense.

But, there are ways to try and get Kane involved.

How to Spark Evander Kane’s Production

One of the best forwards for the team in the early going of the season, Kane is useful. He’s got 14 goals and 24 points in 37 games this year, still on a 30-goal pace. It’s just a matter of giving him looks.

Connor Brown Evander Kane Oilers

That could come with a bit more second-unit power play time. Or, the odd opportunity on the first unit if that unit isn’t scoring. Pop him in for Zach Hyman every once and a while to see what he can do. Alternatively, the Oilers can make a change to the third line.

Bring out Connor Brown and put in an offensively-gifted player like Sam Gagner or a driver like Dylan Holloway when he’s ready. Brown hasn’t earned the right to stay in the lineup. Until he scores, and then scores again, his spot shouldn’t be guaranteed. If a healthy scratch or a demotion to the fourth line for Brown is warranted, coach Kris Knoblauch should feel comfortable making that call. He knows what Kane can do, and he knows the forward isn’t being used to his full potential.

There Is One Caveat Here With Evander Kane

This argument only holds water if two things are true. First, that Kane is healthy. If he’s not, promoting him when he’s not 100 percent doesn’t make much sense. Second, if he’s willing to take advantage of the opportunities he gets. Saturday night was a good example. He was elevated onto the second line and got an assist. He was solid, but it wasn’t his best effort. As the Edmonton Journal pointed out in their player grades, “0 hits as he continues to deal with a core body issue that limits his rambunctious style.”

When those opportunities are given, a player like Kane absolutely needs to make the most of them. Otherwise, he sounds like he’s complaining but not prepared to help his own situation.

Next: Ilya Samsonov to Start for Maple Leafs vs Red Wings Sunday Night



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