It’s been another rough year for the Chicago Blackhawks. For the second straight season in a row, the team didn’t make the playoffs. The two seasons prior to that ended in first round playoff exits. Let’s face it, that 2015 third Stanley Cup in six years is starting to look pretty far removed. At this point, the glory years appear to be over.
There are many reasons for this decline. Salary cap constraints are a major culprit. They forced many unwanted trades and necessary business decisions. There are the health issues of goaltender Corey Crawford, not to mention the loss of future Hall-of-Famer Marian Hossa to a skin condition. A coaching change and the implementation of a brand new system certainly didn’t help.
But one thing you can’t blame things on is the performance of right-winger Patrick Kane. In his 12 years in the league, Kane has been surprisingly consistent, and extremely successful. Even at 30 years of age, he certainly hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. The question still remains, how long can he keep it up? But I get ahead of myself. Let’s look at what Kaner has accomplished so far.
Kane came onto the scene in the 2007-08 season. In his rookie year, he recorded 21 goals and 51 assists for 72 points. But things only got better from there. He’s been a 20-goal scorer his entire career, even in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13 (23 goals in 47 games). Kane suited up for only 61 games in 2014-15 due to a broken collarbone, yet he still notched 27 goals. Four times in his career he’s been in the top-10 in the league for goals scored.
And he’s not too shabby as the set-up man either. He’s also been in the top 10 in assists four times, and the top 10 in points five times. In the 2015-16 season, he finished first in the NHL in points (106), earning him the Art Ross Trophy. This past season Kane tallied a career-high 66 assists (sixth) and 110 points (third).
That doesn’t even take into consideration his playoff accomplishments. We all know he’s a three-time Stanley Cup Champion. All in all, he’s participated in nine postseasons totaling 127 games. In that span, he’s tallied 50 goals and 73 assists for 123 points. 11 of said goals were game-winning goals. Yeah, yeah, we all know about the most famous of those. He hasn’t been dubbed “Showtime” for nothing.
The Ageless Wonder
So how does one maintain this level of consistency and excellence over the course of 12 years?
First off, Kane is a player of smaller stature (5-foot-10, 177 pounds). He’s a finesse player, using his skill, speed, and vision to outmaneuver his opponents. He’s a master at avoiding hits, and giving hits isn’t exactly his game. As a result, he has much less wear and tear on his body than a more physical power forward, such as Jonathan Toews or Brandon Saad. Kane’s style of play is beneficial in helping him sustain a long, productive career.
Secondly, Kane works very hard to keep himself in the best possible condition. As a matter of fact, he’s experimented with some extremely unorthodox workout regimens in an attempt to avoid Father Time. Last offseason, he started training with Chicago-based trainer Ian Mack. These workouts were “body movement-based” and focused on “muscle elasticity and getting his body to move in consort”. He’s been paying much more attention to his nutrition and his sleep habits as well. What he’s doing appears to be working. Says Kane,
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.
It also helps that Kane has a genuine love for the game. He’s known as a true rink-rat thatjust wants to play hockey. He’s often the last player off the ice at practices and likes to engage in fun games and competitions with the younger players. When he couldn’t participate in the playoffs the last two offseasons, he went to the World Championships instead so he could play more hockey. He’s served as the captain of Team USA for the past two tournaments. Now he’s the mature one and he mentors the younger players, including projected top draft prospect Jack Hughes.
Kane and the Future
I’m guessing none of Kane’s past accomplishments really means much to him right now. He’s tasted the sweetness of the ultimate prize three times, and it only makes him hungrier to do it again. Kane expressed frustration at the end of the season that the Hawks would once again miss the playoffs. But that will also provide him and the rest of the team plenty of motivation for the upcoming season. So how can head coach Jeremy Colliton best utilize Kane moving forward?
The irony of Kane’s success is he can work his magic regardless of his linemates. But there certainly are some players with which he’s had more chemistry than others. Kane developed a solid partnership with Nick Schmaltz before he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in November of 2018. He and former Blackhawk Artemi Panarin lit the world on fire in the 2015-16 season. As mentioned above, Kane won the Art Ross (as well as the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award) with Panarin as his sidekick. And Panarin ran away with the Calder Trophy for best rookie.
But the Blackhawks have no lack of current players who also complement Kane. Dylan Strome appears to have established himself as the second line center on the team, and Kane oftentimes lines up on his right wing. Although Colliton also went with the nuclear option and placed Toews and Kane on the same line together a lot last season. They, in turn, rekindled the success they had in previous years.
Alex DeBrincat and Kane might arguably be even better suited for each other than the Panarin/Kane duo. And when newcomer Drake Caggiula lined up with Kane they did some damage. What could Kane and second-year forward Dylan Sikura accomplish? Not to mention the added additions of Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin.
The point is there are several weapons at forward who would work well with Kane. He could bring out the best in them, and vice versa. I personally can’t wait to see how Colliton deploys the lines as the 2019-20 season unfolds.
Because Kane isn’t anywhere near finished yet. Could he possibly exceed his career-high numbers and lead the Blackhawks to another fruitful postseason?
I wouldn’t bet against him.