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Step it up, mister star left-winger

Noel sends clear message to Kane, who rode bench much of opener

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Good is not enough for Evander Kane. He must be great for the Winnipeg Jets to rise above mediocrity.

Kane is the player that most represents what the Jets are, a young team hoping to grow and burst through the playoff ceiling. If Kane is just another, "young guy learning his way around the league," the Jets will sputter. If the third-year pro takes off and becomes a sniper NHL teams fear on a nightly basis, the Jets might make some noise for reasons other than being the NHL's newest franchise.


Kane, who had a career high 19 goals last season, was singled out for a sub-par performance on Sunday and not because the coach doesn't like his game -- just the opposite.

Jets bench boss Claude Noel believes Kane can be a superstar. While the coach won't say it aloud, it's almost certain that the talented young winger is considered the key to the team's development.

Kane needs to be Winnipeg's most dangerous forward if there's going to be any real progress for the Jets.

Noel, like any coach in the NHL, needs wins to satisfy his bosses and the fans. Kane can't be average for the Jets to progress, he has to be one of the best players on the ice every night.

"For us to have success, Evander has to bring his A-game. But he wasn't alone. So if you're going to write that he didn't get his A-game, you better make sure you write that there were others along with him. Because there were quite a few others," said Noel, when pressed about cutting back Kane's ice-time in Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Habs.

Kane, who skated on a line with Mark Scheifele at centre and Kyle Wellwood on the right side, played just 10 minutes in the game.

Some might argue those linemates didn't give Kane the best opportunity to succeed. Noel had him skating with Alexander Burmistrov and Nik Antropov on Tuesday.

"When I get put out there, I play as hard as I can. I can only control what I do when I go on the ice. I try to put my best effort forward every night," was all Kane would offer when asked about the mini-benching.

"I just wanted a little bit more from him," said Noel. "I don't equate an A-game with only shots and only hits. I equate it with performance, like with everybody. I would have liked his performance to have been better. But I could have missed shifts with a lot of guys. I was trying to find chemistry. I wanted to see the reaction to not being in the rotation for a few shifts."

Noel asserted the reason Kane was selected first to come under his motivational microscope was because he's so important to the team and has so much to offer.

"We wanted to see his reaction. You strike, you provoke, you motivate. I'm in search of the same thing. I want to see our team's A-game and the individual's A-game. So I'm going to find it and when I find it, I'm going to say, 'I saw your A-game and now you and I know that's your A-game. And he's going to have to strive to that and anything below that bar, we're not happy.'"

Unfortunately, effort is not enough. Results, as in scoring chances and goals are what Kane must achieve.

The quandary for Noel, however, is getting Kane up and running at that level and being able to reward him with heavy minutes.

Sitting on the bench won't result in goals. Kane must play and play a lot. Noel has delivered his message early and clearly. How it's received and dealt with by Kane is the next step in the process. Twitter: @garylawless

Today's Jets Report C3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2011 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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