It doesn’t take a hockey expert to tell you that Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks is on fire right now. Despite failing to break his record of a 26-game point streak, Kane recently came off of a 20-game point streak. He also scored one of the best goals of the season to seal the win for the Blackhawks against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 27.
He took home the Hart Trophy in 2016 after the best season of his career and is on track to have stronger numbers by the end of this season. The question remains, does he have what it takes to bring home another Hart Trophy?
Kane made history as the first American-born player to take home the Hart Trophy (along with the Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award) in 2016. Back then, even Kane himself found himself found it hard to believe.
He told the Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s amazing to me that there’s no American that’s ever won the scoring title or the MVP award because there have been so many great American players. You can go up and down the list of names — guys like [Chris] Chelios, Brian Leetch, Mike Modano, Joe Mullen, Jeremy Roenick, players that had great careers. It’s pretty amazing to say that [there are] some American records you hold now, whether it’s the MVP, scoring title, point streak. It’s pretty exciting.” (from ‘Patrick Kane becomes first American to win Hart Trophy as MVP’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 6/23/16).
Kane taking home the Hart Trophy for the second time would further cement his legacy as one of the greatest American-born players in the history of the NHL. He tallied a total of 46 goals and 60 assists during his MVP season and is currently at 40 goals and 54 assists in 64 games. Statistically, he’s on the road to have the best season of his career, which is already a solid case for him to win the Hart Trophy.
A Long Road for Kane and the Blackhawks
The past few seasons haven’t been the best for the Blackhawks, making Kane’s success this season even more impressive. Despite being one of the strongest and most reliable players on the roster, he changed his offseason routine after the Blackhawks missed the playoffs last season.
He told ESPN that he focused more on speed than strength, “It was totally the opposite of what I was doing last summer,” he says. “Then, it was all about weightlifting and trying to get stronger.” The change had positive effects beyond the scoresheet, as he continued, “I’m playing a lot more, but I feel pretty fresh every night. I honestly think I feel better now than I did in my 20s. I really do.”
The Blackhawks went through a rough period after the firing of Joel Quenneville. Like most Blackhawks, Kane had a tough time with the transition at first and now praises head coach Jeremy Colliton, “At first, I think it surprised a lot of us, and I don’t know if we were ready for it right off the bat,” Kane said. “But once you meet Jeremy and go through talking hockey and the way he wants us to play, there’s a lot of good things and a lot of good ideas he has that he can bring to us and help us win games.” (from ‘Blackhawks players impressed by direction of team under Jeremy Colliton’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 11/26/18).
Kane’s ability to possibly have the best season of his career and take his team to the playoffs after being last in the NHL definitely make him the most valuable player on the Blackhawks. He’s had a wonderful bounce-back season, but how does it compare to his competition?
Hart Trophy Competitors
The two other players that are often thrown into the ring for the Hart are Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames. Kucherov leads the NHL in points and is the only player who surpasses Kane with 31 goals and 75 assists with 106 points overall in 66 games. Gaudreau comes in fourth overall in points with 30 goals and 53 assists in 65 games. With the most points in the league, Kucherov’s case for MVP is obvious. Gaudreau’s case for MVP includes his personal achievements of the season as well as his contribution to the Flames as a whole.
Both are different cases from Kane, but who will stand out in the end?
Should Kane Win the Hart?
There are plenty of strong arguments for him to take home the trophy. NBC Sports Chicago even released a parody campaign video to make their case. His teammates argue that he should win due to how much he has helped the Blackhawks step up this season.
Jonathan Toews told NBC Sports Chicago, “Relative to his team, absolutely,” Toews said. “You see who won the Hart Trophy last year, and in my book, there’s no doubt that he should be taking home some hardware at the end of the season this year. But we all know he’s not worried about that right now. He’s worried about keeping his streak going and staying hot and playing his game, and every night he’s a big part of our offense, so it’s pretty incredible to see him do it night after night.”
Colliton agrees, citing Kane’s reliability to the Chicago Sun-Times, “To ask him if he’s ready is probably not the best plan, because he’s going to tell you he’s ready to go.” from ‘Patrick Kane’s MVP-level production, effort is saving Blackhawks’ season’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 02/06/19).
Kane has what it takes to win the Hart Trophy. At the end of the season, it will really come down to all of the top contenders. Kucherov and Johnny Gaudreau also have great cases to win, but neither of them has a 20-game point streak nor helped their teams go from last in the league to a possible playoff contender. If Kane helps the Blackhawks make it to the playoffs, there is no doubt that he should take home the Hart Trophy for the 2018-19 season.
All stats obtained from NHL.com