Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

EURO-FLOPS: Here's hoping Kane and Pavelec come back a bit more humble

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Money, it is said, can ruin a person. Let's hope that's not the case with Evander Kane and Ondrej Pavelec.

The evidence to this point, however, does not look good.

Both cashed in with huge contracts from the Jets this past summer. Neither has done much since to affirm the faith put in them by the organization.

The money isn't rolling in yet due to the lockout, but the bad headlines have been plentiful.

Kane was released by Dinamo Minsk of the KHL on Friday after just 12 games. The numbers he posted in Russia -- one goal, no assists, one suspension -- are astounding. First he was accused of being out of shape by his coach upon arriving in Minsk, then he failed to produce and then he got cut. The European experiment was toast. Too bad. A lot could have been gained by Kane finding a way to make it in the KHL. Instead he's returning to Vancouver -- hopefully not to stagnate for a full year if that's where the lockout heads.

Kane scored 30 goals in the NHL last season and cashed in with a six-year deal worth $31.5 million. Now he's not good enough to stick on a KHL roster.

Kane's agent Craig Oster said the hockey didn't fit his client.

"I've spoken to Evander and he just found the hockey to be different," Oster said Friday. "The style to be different, the training to be different. I think the coaching was a challenge at times. This arrangement didn't have a set time limit. It was a month-to-month deal. For both sides it felt like it had run its course."

There's no question the style of the game in the NHL is less suited to a north-south player like Kane. Just look at his former Jets teammate Tim Stapleton, who was unable to secure another NHL contract this summer but has 11 goals and eight assists in the KHL. Stapleton is creative. Kane is not and a season in the KHL could have helped round out his game. For an unpolished 21-year-old talent, a season in the KHL with its less restrictive play could have been an opportunity to broaden his vision and offensive instincts.

The 25-year-old Pavelec might be a little older, but his latest stretch has been even worse.

Pavelec signed a big-ticket contract with the Jets and then got caught in a lie of omission when it came out he'd been arrested in his native Czech Republic for drunk driving. Pavelec got popped prior to signing the new deal and kept his arrest hush-hush throughout negotiations.

Talk about bad faith negotiating.

Next up was a brownout for Pav-lectricity during his stint with Liberec in the Czech league. The Jets' top netminder posted a goals against average of 3.52 and a .896 save percentage in 14 games with Liberec. When the first leg of his contract expired on Nov. 4, there was no renewal. No kidding.

For a goalie capable of commanding the $3.9 million per season the Jets gave him, those numbers are troubling.

Pavelec was much better for the Jets in his contract year, putting up a 2.91 GAA and .906 save percentage behind one of the NHL's worst defensive teams.

Pavelec has a date with Jets owner Mark Chipman and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff the next time he sets foot in Winnipeg and if the sting of being deceived last summer during contract talks had worn off, his most recent performance will likely serve as a reminder.

With everything bad, usually some good can be found. For Kane and Pavelec, the adversity they're facing right now could serve to be humbling. It could also re-stoke the inner fires that have got them to the peak of their profession.

Every player in the NHL has been blessed with talent. But hard work, sacrifice and commitment are also a big piece of the recipe. Kane and Pavelec have worked hard to get where they are.

Slip-ups -- happens. What one does with the slip, however, is the most important measure.

Next time we see Kane and Pavelec in Jets jerseys we'll find out how far a dash of humility goes with their personalities.

And, more importantly to Jets fans, how that lesson in humility affects their games.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2012 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 www.winnipegfreepress.com
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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