Sabre Metrics: Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Whether you love him, hate him, or still don’t know the difference between him and Patrick Kane, Evander Kane is currently one of the hottest topics for the Buffalo Sabres. This is particularly true due to the trade rumors starting to swirl, most of which involve the Los Angeles Kings. The basic argument is this—those in favor of keeping Kane suggest that he provides a scoring force, particularly even strength, that the Sabres really need. They also argue that his off-ice issues and maturity has improved. Those wanting him gone argue that the off-ice issues are too much of a red flag and he should be traded now while his value is high due to a solid season in exchange for defensive help which the Sabres so desperately need. Taking a look at the numbers gives us a better idea of Kane’s value as a player both to the Sabres and as a trade option, but there will be other things to consider as well.

Starting with offensive production (comparative stats min requirements—15 games played, offense only). Kane is a goal scorer. On average, 52% of his points came from goals compared to the league average of 43% in 2016-2017. Not only that, Kane is a great even strength goal scorer. With an additional filter of at least 15 goals scored, the league averaged 73% of their goals as even strength goals, whereas Kane has a career average of 81%. Here’s a reminder of why that’s a useful statistic to be aware of:


The Sabres were dead last in the ratio above. Yes, part of the reason is because they had an excellent power play, giving them more power play goals that lowered that ratio, but the majority of the reason is that they just couldn’t put the puck in the net while at even strength:


Bottom line, the Sabres were awful at even strength hockey. Maybe it’s not the best idea to get rid of their best even strength goal scorer by a long shot:


The numbers here are definitely in Kane’s favor. He’s been a great even strength producer on a team that sorely needs it. Another factor in Kane’s favor—his production is on the rise. Shown below is his goal scoring as well as his goal scoring per game played in order to account for injuries, etc.:


Kane started off strong, showing he was on the rise. Then some off-ice issues happened, there was tension between him and his teammates, and he wasn’t well respected in the locker room. This combined with a general decline in scoring production led to Kane being traded to Buffalo, and since then, Kane has surged to the second-best scoring season of his career. There have been some off-ice issues in Buffalo, no doubt. And while there are whispers of tension in the locker room, they are nowhere near as loud as they were in Winnipeg.

Kane is once again on the rise. He has shown that he has matured quite a bit and that he can still be an excellent goal scorer. There’s no reason to think that he can’t keep up this production. Yes, Buffalo is desperate for defense. But remember, defenders, are coming. There’s a good chance Brendan Guhle makes the team out of camp, and Viktor Antipin is coming over from the KHL. Not to mention that Buffalo could trade their first-round pick for a defenseman as well. The numbers show that Kane is an extremely valuable player for what the Sabres desperately need—even strength scoring. After looking at these numbers, in my opinion, he should remain a Sabre and continue to be the player they need, as Buffalo has other options for fixing their defense.


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