photo credit: Zimbio
By Jon Fromi
Patrick Kane had a season of ups and downs in the 2010-11 campaign. Add some offseason surgery to reports of Kane committing to raising his game and the 22-year old winger certainly has a lot to prove to the NHL this coming season.
“I think it’s about that time I really take the next step to the elite level,” Kane told reporters soon after reporting for training camp. “It seems like everyone’s kind of been saying that to me this summer, ‘All right, you’ve done well your first four years, now let’s really take that step to the next level and become one of the best players in the league.'”
Is 2007’s first overall draft selection maturing on and off the ice?
Kane capped off his best season to date by scoring the goal that won the Stanley Cup for the ‘Hawks. He helped bring the city of Chicago its first cup in nearly 50 years. He’s a young, single guy. It should surprise no one if he hoisted a few beverages after hoisting the cup last summer.
Can the argument be made that Kane’s preparation for the 2010-11 season wasn’t as diligent as in past seasons? Of course it can. On the other hand, that argument can be made for many of the returning Blackhawks.
For the season, Kane had 27 goals and 46 assists for 73 points. Those numbers are down from 2009-10, but not by much when you consider that he missed nine games and most of a tenth this season.
Kane suffered a high ankle sprain on his first shift in the ‘Hawks December 5th game with Calgary. He missed the remainder of that contest as well as eight more games.
This harkens back to the 2008-09 season, where a similar injury hindered Kane even after he got back on the ice. Ankles, even 22-year old ankles, don’t heal completely until the offseason. Kane admitted that he felt the effects of the injury throughout the season.
Kane came back rather quickly from the injury, returning December 28th. He struggled to find the net his first 15 games back in the lineup before coming up with 14 goals and 24 assists in his last 35 games. Let’s look at Kane’s numbers before and after the injury.
Pre-injury (28 games): 11 goals, 16 assists
Post-injury (45 games): 16 goals, 30 assists
Here are Kane’s stats for the first 28 and final 45 regular season games in the 2009-10 campaign.
First 28: 9 goals, 18 assists
Last 45:17 goals, 32 assists
Compared to the season before, those are pretty similar numbers.
Give Kane those games missed due to the ankle, and it’s likely he posts very similar numbers to his breakout season in 2009-10. In short, he was derailed a bit following a fairly serious injury to a skater who is built for speed, but recovered to match last year’s production.
A lot of fans looked at Kane’s 2009-10 season as a precursor to his blossoming into a 100-point offensive weapon. Not making that leap while defending the cup was far from the exception in Chicago. The only returning Blackhawks forwards who saw their numbers go up substantially from the cup season were Tomas Kopecky, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.
Kopecky nearly doubled his ice time this past season, so his stats are easily explained. Sharp’s offensive production came at the expense of his play on the back end. Toews played four more games than last year, logging nine goals and one more assist than 2009-10.
I’m not saying Toews or Sharp didn’t have monster seasons; I’m pointing out that Kane isn’t washed up because his numbers didn’t surge to the 100-point realm.
He missed time last year, wasn’t as effective on the power play and seemed to be less inclined to get off a shot at times. He seemed to coast a lot in the defensive zone; some would say that was true at times on the offensive end as well.
On the other hand, he improved on the back check as the year went on and came back early from an injury that the team thought would keep him out for up to six weeks. He also played in his second All-Star Game and was a point a game player for the second consecutive season.
Despite completing just one season of a five-year, $31.5 million contract, there were fans clamoring for Kane to be shipped out of town after a down year. The scuttlebutt driving this talk was Kane’s well-documented nightlife as well as claims that he is too one-dimensional.
Just like fans expect Dave Bolland to be an elite scorer as well as a shutdown center, Kane is facing the expectation of topping 100-points and being a defensive stopper as well. Those fans need to step off and start seeing the forest for the trees.
Kane is capable of improving on the defensive end. Just because his isn’t the ultimate two-way threat, however, is no reason to discard such a pivotal piece of the Blackhawks’ puzzle. He seems to have worked hard to bolster his strength and is talking the talk in regards to taking his game up a notch.
He should get the chance to start walking the walk very soon.
Kane underwent wrist surgery in July to correct issues that first reared up late in the regular season. Continued issues during offseason workouts sent him under the knife, putting his availability for training camp in limbo. However, Kane has been skating throughout the recovery process and shows no ill effects at this point.
Although the team has been cautious, he has taken part in contact scrimmages in camp. It looks like he will get a chance to test the wrist against an opponent sometime this week. Everything is pointing toward Kane being ready and on the ice for the October 8th season opener.
Patrick Kane is a young scorer and distributor on the wing who is going to have some trouble with physical defense. That’s been the case in the course of his four-year career and that’s not going to drastically change. It doesn’t seem to stop him from being a point a game player, though. There aren’t a lot of those types in the league these days.
He’s 22. He has growing up to do, but few players that age don’t. If Kane recognizes that he can improve and is working toward doing just that, it’s a sizable first step to his burgeoning maturation process.