Entering the 2020-21 campaign, it was well established that the Chicago Blackhawks were in the midst of an active rebuild. As they shifted their focus to developing their prospect pool, Chicago’s veterans would be left picking up the slack. Simply stated, any success they might achieve along the way was likely to be aligned with the play of Patrick Kane.
RELATED — Chicago Blackhawks 2020-21 Player Grades
Kane is no stranger to the spotlight. He’s had it shining brightly upon him ever since being drafted first overall nearly 15 years ago. However, he’s also had a much more skilled and proven supporting cast around him to this point in his career. Whereas, this was set to be a year of struggles, rather than the celebrations he’s become accustomed to in Chicago.
So, how did Kane hold up amid a drastically different approach from Blackhawks management through 2020-21?
With captain Jonathan Toews out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury, Kane truly was set to stand alone on Chicago’s offensive pedestal. Sure, there were younger stars like Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik, who were there to help chip in, but no one was positioned to produce in the way Kane is always expected to.
Of course, he’d look to leverage the experience of players like Duncan Keith, Calvin de Haan, Carl Söderberg, Ryan Carpenter, and Connor Murphy to help him support the franchise’s mandate of mentoring the rest of their youthful roster. Yet, the reality is that this was Kane’s team to lead.
Now in his 30s, Kane is still undeniably among the league’s elite. While it’s typical for NHL stars to experience a natural decline in their effectiveness at his age, his results in recent years have proven that he’s far from the norm.
That’s exactly what Chicago was banking on heading into this season. But, would Kane perform as they would need him to, in anticipating that the responsibility of lifting them towards any level of achievement would rest mostly on his shoulders?
2020-21 Stats Summary
Having collected 1,022 points in 973 contests heading into 2020-21, Kane has established himself as a point-per-game player during his career. Most recently, he had accumulated 33 goals and 51 assists throughout the shortened 2019-20 schedule.
Safe to say, it was presumed that he’d do much of the same this season. If so, that would then result in seeing him sit atop the team with the highest totals for the sixth year in a row.
Kane came out doing exactly what was expected of him and then some, having set a pace of 1.5 points per game through Chicago’s first 20 contests of the year. He was accomplishing so much, on a team that was expected to do so little, that his name somehow snuck into the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation partway through the year.
He’d go on to accumulate 66 points (PTS) through 56 games played (GP), earning 15 goals and 51 assists, including three game-winners. Kane averaged over 22:00 of ice time per night and ended up with a minus-7 rating.
January: 10 GP, 10 PTS
February: 13 GP, 24 PTS
March: 14 GP, 15 PTS
April: 13 GP, 12 PTS
May: 6 GP, 5 PTS
As illustrated, he was on fire throughout February. Unfortunately, for Kane and the Blackhawks, that level of dominance wouldn’t be maintained the rest of the way. Yet, he did still achieve All-Star numbers for his stat line.
His overall efforts placed him atop his teammates in points per 60, with 3.17. Additionally, his 187 shots on goal were the most by a Blackhawk, while his created expected goals of 14.4 were second only to DeBrincat’s 18.4.
Showtime Still Shines
Nearing the point in one’s career where milestones reach a tier that only the best of the best can hope to approach, Kane found a way to hit a few of his own throughout 2020-21.
For starters, he joined the exclusive 400-goal club back in February. Fittingly, it came against a familiar foe — the Detroit Red Wings.
Kane also participated in his 1,000th regular-season game in early March, an achievement eclipsed by his overtaking of fourth on the all-time points list for American-born players, which he accomplished later that month and inevitably edged him closer to being the best of all time.
Grading the Full Scope of Work
It should come as no surprise that the 32-year-old found a way to play like he was still in his mid-20s. Perhaps that was his response to not yet being ready to pass the torch to his younger colleagues. The reasoning is irrelevant, as the point remains that he answered the call to lead his team.
However, although his hot streak early in the year fuelled the fire that would lead to the club’s surprising success up to that point, once Kane’s production cooled down so did Chicago’s.
After planting themselves in a postseason position midway through 2020-21, their Discover Central Division counterparts had other plans. The Blackhawks would ultimately miss the playoffs, after failing to follow up on their overachievements.
Had Kane found a way to maintain the type of prowess he showcased through his best streaks of the season, Chicago might have held on to that fourth-place spot. Though, while it’s justifiable to have hoped for better from Kane more often, this is a team sport. The Blackhawks succeed and fail as a collective.
Besides, Kane provided his team with ample opportunity to celebrate alongside him this year.
On an individual level, Kane had a successful campaign. As evidenced by his 1.18 points per game pace throughout. He did his part, resulting in yet another season of stellar stats for Chicago’s most coveted superstar.
Final grade: B+
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Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.