WINNIPEG – On the ice, the Winnipeg Jets play nice.
But it’s a different story away from the rink.
“I mentioned Evander Kane as a guy that could step his game up,” said Jets forward Blake Wheeler — a comment that came with controversy.
Wheeler told ESPN Tuesday that Kane is no longer a young guy and needs to be a leader on the team. Fans suspected a feud after Kane fired back on social media, tweeting: “You could have just thrown me a text. #youcanfindmeatthetopofthecircle.” That tweet has since been deleted.
“It seems when he does things or makes comments, it explodes,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler though said Kane was goofing off when he hit send and the tweet was overblown.
“He was making a joke that was misinterpreted and misunderstood by the Winnipeg folks once again,” said Wheeler.
But some of those Winnipeg folks disagree, saying Kane was offside with the tweet.
“If you’re going to be that cocky and that type of guy, then why not prove it on the ice,” said one fan.
“If anything, Wheeler is being a leader, telling somebody that he has to step it up,” added another. “Kane wasn’t very productive last year.”
Kane failed to live up to expectations last winter, scoring just 19 goals and 22 assists during the second season of his six-year, $31.5-million contract.
“He’s a player that has the capability of getting us to that next level,” said Wheeler.
But it’s not just Kane that Wheeler is demanding more from. The entire team has to improve if they hope to make the playoffs, he said.
“This is a conversation that has been had among everyone,” said Wheeler. “There’s a lot of guys who have to step up this year, myself included.”
Kane did not skate Wednesday. Jets training camp opens Sept. 18.