Why Patrick Kane is Poised for a Big Year

It’s been another tough offseason for Patrick Kane. The dynamic young Chicago Blackhawks forward found himself in the news again, this time after photos and reports surfaced of a wild Cinco de Mayo weekend in Madison, WI.

A sampling of the photos show Kane speaking with police, alcohol being poured down his throat, and him passed out on top of a bar. It was also reported that he was telling girls how attractive he thought they were to their faces, locked lips with a fraternity president’s girlfriend, and was eventually kicked out of a party for trying to choke a girl.

Needless to say, it’s not the kind of attention the Blackhawks were hoping one of their most marketable players would bring to the organization.

In August of 2009, Kane made headlines when he, along with his cousin, allegedly punched a cab driver in Buffalo, NY who wasn’t able to provide them with the proper change for their fare.

The charges in the cab incident were eventually reduced to noncriminal disorderly conduct, but they still tattooed Kane with the mark of immaturity, one that will stick with him for many years, especially if he continues to put himself in the media spotlight for less than respectable reasons.

At the time of the first incident, Kane was only 20 and many were able to pass it off as the type of mistake that a young person makes when caught in the wrong situation. Now 23, the patience of both the Blackhawks and critics alike has appeared to grow thin.

There was heavy speculation in the offseason that the Blackhawks would deal the Buffalo native to bring in a new goalie (or Rick Nash?) and rid themselves of the headaches that he has caused with his not-so-secret lifestyle.

Trading Kane this offseason would have been a mistake.

Let’s go back and take a look at what Kane did during the 2009-2010 season, which some fans might remember as the year that the Windy City hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961.

Patrick Kane Blackhawks
Patrick Kane (Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI)

Without a doubt, that season marked the best of Kane’s career. He scored 30 goals and had 58 assists to give himself 88 points on the season – a season in which he was the Blackhawks’ leading scorer by a substantial 19 points and finished ninth overall in the NHL.

After leading the team through the regular season, “Kaner” maintained his solid performance for the duration of the playoffs. Many will remember that in the first round series against the Nashville Predators, Kane scored a shorthanded goal with 13.6 seconds remaining to tie game 5. The Blackhawks went on to win the pivotal game in overtime, shifting the momentum in their favor and allowing them to avoid a “must-win” situation for the rest of the series.

Following the Nashville series, Kane continued to perform well against the Canucks, Sharks, and Flyers, compiling 28 points in 22 games, trailing captain Jonathan Toews by one point for the team lead in playoff scoring. He made a strong case for winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player, the honor that was eventually bestowed on Toews.

While it may be a stretch to say that his successful season was a direct result of the offseason incident, there may be some correlation between the two. According to the Chicago Tribune, Kane believes his offseason workouts following the altercation, where he worked out “15 out of 17 days back in Buffalo, about three hours a day,” were the most intense of his career.

Knowing that he had something to prove in 2009, Kane came out firing on all cylinders, notching four points in the season’s first two games against the Florida Panthers in Helsinki, Finland. At one point during the middle of the season, he tallied 18 points in just 11 games, carrying the team offensively during an 8-2-0-1 run.

Before the 2009-2010 season began, it was much easier for the front office to support Kane. They could write off the altercation with the cab driver as a youthful mistake that wouldn’t happen again. As Kane put it, the Blackhawks’ front office supported him “110 percent.”

Those feelings were absent this offseason when General Manager Stan Bowman avoided discussing the ugly weekend like the plague. Soon to turn 24 and entering his 6th NHL season, the team had been hoping Kane would not only continue to develop offensively, but also accept a role as a leader in the locker room.

Don’t expect #88 to disappoint.

Kane knows he’s on a short leash. His offensive output was disappointing by his standards last season, when he registered only 66 points in 82 games. However, Kane was bounced between center and wing by Head Coach Joel Quenneville and was never really given the opportunity to develop chemistry with those around him.

It may take a bit of time for him to repair his reputation, but the best way to make fans forget is to produce on the ice. That’s exactly what happened after the 2009-2010 season. Many fans were conveniently able to forget the mishaps from the past summer when Kane somehow managed to squeeze the puck underneath Michael Leighton to clinch the ultimate honor for the ‘Hawks.

Everyone knows that Kane possesses unique and game-changing talent, including himself. He’s an absolute wizard with the puck, often leaving fans and opposing defenders with their jaws on the floor. Just take a look at the video below where Kane undresses Minnesota Wild goalie Nicklas Backstrom in the shootout:

YouTube player

With a friend and teammate like Jonathan Toews, the consummate pro, it’s hard to believe that Kane hasn’t received at least a couple of stern lectures from “Captain Serious,” who has supported the young dynamo through the troubling offseason.

Alternate captain Patrick Sharp has also encouraged Kane, calling him a “world-class talent, [who] does all kinds of things on the ice.”

In a sign of perhaps increased maturity, Kane didn’t shy away from questions about the turbulent offseason from  the Chicago Tribune, displaying a legitimate desire to become a better ambassador for the team.

“[The photos] are pretty embarrassing,” he told the Chicago newspaper. “Hopefully it’s something that can make me a better person…I know the person I am and I know the person I can be. I have to make these things stop happening.”

In a season that will go a long way toward determining the type of player Patrick Kane will be in this league, expect him to come out (again) with something to prove.

This is, of course, assuming that there is a 2012-2013 NHL season…

Follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski.