Before the season, there were significant concerns across Hawk Nation that the 2007-2008 Calder Trophy Winner, Patrick Kane, may suffer from a significant sophomore slump. Those concerns were short-lived as Kane came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. By the seventh game, he already racked up 8 points. Keep in mind, this was before Marty Havlat became Christ on Skates and Jonathan Toews was in the middle of a horrendous goal-scoring slump to open the season.
It wasn’t just by the numbers, either. Watching Kane in the early going of his second season, it was quite apparent that he spent his summer working on his speed and shooting. Kane had an extra gear he never had in his rookie season. His shot had improved nearly ten-fold. After going through his rookie year with pop gun wrists, he was now picking out corners with some steam coming off the puck.
In the first 33 games of the season, he notched 16 goals and 25 assists. Then on December 30th, Kane got his ankle caught along the boards while trying to avoid a check from Detroit’s Daniel Cleary. What resulted was the dreaded high ankle sprain. With the Winter Classic two days later, Kane rushed himself back, re-aggravated the injury during the game, and missed the next two games.
The extra gear Kane sported at the beginning of the year was mostly lost and his numbers began reflecting that. In the remaining 47 games, he scored only 9 more goals to go along with 20 assists.
Just like in his rookie season when he went through a dry spell of 2 goals in 28 games, he fell victim to another slump when scored only 1 goal in a 21-game period spanning from December 26th to February 17th. What made this drought even worse was that he only had 5 assists during that time frame.
Another important part of his game in the regular season is his scoring touch in shootouts. His rookie season he was nearly automatic with 7 goals in 9 shots. This past season, he came back down to Earth with 3 goals in 9 shots. When it comes to grabbing that extra point, a skill like this shouldn’t be dismissed.
Once the playoffs came around, many fans were worried (once again) that the rough and tumble playoffs would be too much for the gentle Kane. Then in Game 1, Rene Bourque delivered a huge (and definitely cheap) hit to Kane. He looked visibly groggy after the hit.
He came back from the hit though and ended up with 4 points in the 6 game set with Calgary (though he only played in 5 games, he sat out Game 3 with the flu), including a huge goal and assist in the Game 6 clincher.
In the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Vancouver Canucks felt it was in their best interests to let Patrick Kane be the one who beats them. Bad idea. In the 6 game series, Kane scored 6 goals with 2 assists. He set up the game-winning goal in Game 5 when he found Dave Bolland on the doorstep with less than 8 minutes to go. Then, Kane saved his best performance for the final game when he scored a hat-trick. Two of the goals will be seen on the United Center Jumbotron throughout this season.
After seeing what happens when defenses don’t key on Kane, Detroit made a point of using Niklas Lidstrom to shut him down in the Conference Finals. And shut him down he did. It wasn’t until Game 5 when Kane finally had more than an inch of breathing room that he scored his first goal against the Wings. It was a beauty and set up the overtime where the Hawks would eventually lose.
If many in the Hawks organization feel this was a “so-so” playoff performance, I’d hate to see what they think of the rest of their team.
Patrick Kane’s 2009-2010 will be a success if…
He avoids prolonged scoring slumps. So far in both of his two seasons, Kane has gone an extended period without scoring any goals. If he wants to become a true elite player in the NHL, then this has to stop. In his defense, in one of the years, he was going through his first season, and in the next, he was battling a nagging ankle injury. Now, there are no more excuses. So what better time to deliver the goods that someone of his talent level promises.
He increases his even-strength goal total. There’s no doubt that Patrick Kane will score on the power-play. In his two year career, 20 of his 46 goals have come with the man advantage. In order to become an even bigger scoring threat, he has to be just as dangerous with 5-on-5 play. So far, he’s been simply ok. Again, to get himself on the level of the elite scorers, this number needs to improve.
Patrick Kane’s 2009-2010 will be a disappointment if…
This is his swan song in the Indian Head. I have a feeling we’re going to spend countless hours this winter trying to explain to people how restricted free agency works in the NHL. For whatever reason, there’s countless fans who feel the Hawks would be better off without Kane on the team. How or why they conceived this notion is something that most of us are still trying to figure out. Put it this way, to lose the number one overall pick after only three seasons would be an absolute abomination.
He doesn’t improve his defensive zone play. Going into his third season, Kane has to show marked improvement in the defensive zone. His +/- numbers in the playoffs don’t show it, but Kane was a far more responsible player in his own end. Gone were his lazy turnovers from the regular season and off the top of my head, I can only remember him taking one penalty that forced me to facepalm. If he can carry this over, then he’ll be that much better of a player. If not, then he’ll remain the one and a half-dimensional player that he currently is.
Patrick Kane certainly had the most eventful off-season of any Blackhawk player in quite some time. His run-in with the law will likely define the early part of his season. How he deals with that will be an interesting character study.
Ultimately though, all that really matters is if A.) his teammates don’t want to kill him and B) he produces on the ice. If that happens, then this summer will only be an ugly footnote in his career.
The more important thing to watch for will be if this is the year Kane makes ‘The Leap’ into the upper echelon of NHL talent. So far, he’s proven that 70 points is no big deal. Now the question becomes, can he improve even more on those numbers or have we seen his ceiling?
Something tells me, though, when a 20 year-old scores 70+ points in consectutive seasons, we’re only starting to see the beginning of what his potential truly holds.