Blackhawks Confidential

Kane has himself in NHL MVP picture as Blackhawks race for four singular prizes

kanemvp.jpgI hate to tamper with this communal "one goal" program we have operating at full efficiency and yet tampering is one of my pleasures in life, so I plan to make the argumentative cases for some Blackhawks escaping the one-for-all, all-for-one Three Musketeers brainwashing and being singled out for their special swordplay when this season is over.

It's not over until it's over, and the Hawks have played among the fewest road games in the NHL, but where the hell is the fun in waiting to name your award winners when everyone else does? Just halfway home, away games or not, we have some full-fledged contenders to win a few major awards and I don't mind stepping on some toes saying so.

Before naming names, I must point out there are some spooky holdovers from the last season the Blackhawks seized the ultimate team prize. In the interests of karma to show history's bound to repeat if you manage to live enough (that's the trick), I'm traveling back in my time machine, made by Edsel.

I was a rebel without a cause then, clear back in 1961 when there was a young president who hailed from a famous Irish political port of call and sailed into the White House with huge gusts of energy and a rather inordinate amount of media focus on his wife and kids.

Almost 50 years down the road, I'm a rebel without a clue. The White House family picture, meanwhile, is still the same with two kids frolicking in the background and a wife setting fashion trends, even if this prez has changed course and is sailing down the courts during business hours and recess with nothing but fast breaks and slam dunks on his agenda.

After a forced exile, a crime-spree era from which Bill Wirtz and Bob Pulford are still facing charges of kidnapping and murdering championship dreams, a Stanley Cup vision again lives in Chicago a half-century later and this time people will be taking pictures of it on their cell phones. It serves as a welcome diversion from our winter challenge come Thursday of not skating off the road into a ditch, just like 50 years ago.

Man, those half-a-hundred have gone by in the wink of an eye, haven't they? In Chicago, it seems that way. After all, we still have the same keynote speakers as hockey celebrities 50 years later.

There is a simple reason why Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, opposite personalities who shared similar drives, are known today as the faces of the Blackhawks. They had the special sheen of being NHL MVPs. Being singled out like that marks a person with distinction, and unless you're O. J. Simpson, the gloss of such stardom never totally loses its luster.

Together, Hull and Mikita had a brief head lock on the seldom-seen NHL MVP Award, which has visited Chicago almost as rarely as the Stanley Cup. They wrestled the Hart Trophy into submission for four consecutive years (1965-68).

Hull won the first two years of the period and Mikita the last two, forging their spirits forevermore into co-goodwill ambassadors over the decades, even when Blackhawks team grew dumb and dumber for a long spell.

But personal awards, you might notice symbolically, are a blank space for 1961, when the Hawks' team success was the be-all, end-all and said it all. Will history repeat? Is the group picture sufficient to tell the story this year, too?

will the 2010 Hawks be recognized only as a unit this season and not individually? While I know the politically correct answer is team is everything and nothing else really matters, it'll come as no surprise I beg to differ and kick political correctness in the gonads.

There is nothing wrong with personal ego that seeks to rise above the norm without squelching the routine. Like good and bad cholesterol, there's good and bad ego.

Teams need individuals recognized and held up as icons. It breeds inner confidence even for the group, setting up a leadership structure in the locker room that dictates if winning is ingrained in the environment and not just a momentary fling, since this Hawks group will be vastly changed by next season due to the salary cap.

The lesser lights need to revolve around the stars in a sporting solar system.

The Hawks need to establish new faces to replace Hull and Mikita and be available for future rubber chicken events. To do that will require a recognition with league awards in which certain Blackhawks stand out alone.

While the team might rule again in 2010 (hey, I'm rhyming naturally just like Ernie Banks), I have to believe Patrick Kane is in the running right now as a MVP winner, Duncan Keith as the finest defenseman (Norris Trophy), Jonathan Toews as outstanding defensive forward, and coach Joel Quenneville as the Jack Adams Trophy winner for the coach who's contributed most to his team's success.

If not for his late start, Marian Hossa might be in the running for the Ross Trophy for most points, another honor won three times by Hull and four times by Mikita between 1960-68, but wait until next year for Hossa on that one.

I know John Madden might get some support, as well, for the Selke Trophy, which he won in 2000-01 for New Jersey. But as well as Madden is playing, it's Toews' time to emerge from the shadows and be singled out for his accomplishments.

Chances are, we won't go 4-for-4 in these awards. Some people will differ based on current results, while others will consider my predictions a flight of fancy that's premature. But let's start the drum beating. The race does not go to the meek and quiet, I have learned.

Kane truthfully is going to be considered a longshot for MVP, an award last won in Chicago by Mikita in '68. There is this talented fella named Alex Ovechkin in Washington, who will be seeking for the first time since Wayne Gretzky to win three straight MVPs in a row this year.

But I'm always rooting for the U. S. to beat Russia, even if the cold war has been put in a closet to await the return of Dr. Strangelove. Plus, Chicago has been slightly better than Washington so far this year. The Caps have been more inconsistent.

Why shouldn't Kane benefit from that if the trend is sustained?

Kane presently ranks sixth in league scoring with 49 points in 43 games. He could finish the season somewhere in the 90s in points, or he might yet elevate his performance even farther down the stretch and join Denis Savard, Bobby Hull, Jeremy Roenick and Steve Larmer as the only Blackhawks with 100-point seasons.

A 100-point season should make it easier for Kane to win MVP. But his impact extends beyond the mere matter of black-and-white.

The way Kane has handled the puck when pressed by two men in his offensive zone along the right boards, repelling them consistently with improved muscle and purpose, and the equally impressive manner in which he has turned last season's minus play all-around into a plus-17 (by making a difference when he is without the puck) makes him a strong MVP candidate in my book.

He is making plays in all segments this season rather than looking to make passes too much last season. Among the NHL's top scorers, Kane's 18 goals are far short of Ovechkin, Marian Gaborik and Sidney Crosby, just to name the cream of the crop. But his team should pull him up over them if it continues this way.

Gaborik's Rangers and Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins have both been in disarray at times this season. That should also count in Kane's favor. He is part of an elite unit that has played with amazing steadiness and repeated dominance.

If Joe Thornton and all his assists for San Jose can be a MVP, Kane can be singled out, as well. The Blackhawks' overwhelming season, if it continues, demands the NHL recognize some of its finest individuals and Kane is in the ascendancy.

Who knows how high is up for him.

If the Hawks can be the best team in the NHL when it ends, or one of the best, people such as Kane, Keith, Toews and Quenneville must be mentioned for the highest honors.

A Quenneville win would be a rare feat for a Blackhawks coach. Only Orval Tessier in 1983 has been able to win the Jack Adams for coaching superiority in Chicago.

Keith would become the fourth Blackhawk to win the Norris Trophy. Pierre Pilote dominated that award from 1963-65. Doug Wilson won it in '82 and Chris Chelios in '93, '96.

Toews would follow Troy Murray in '86 and Dirk Graham in '91 as top defensive forwards. There has to be defensive payback for how extraordinary this defense is.

Besides Hull and Mikita, the MVP Award has been bestowed on simply two other Hawks: Max Bentley in 1946 and Al Rollins in 1954.

Four players in all, almost as meager a summary as the three Stanley Cups in '34, '38 and '61. We need much, much more and it should be our time to celebrate Kane.

Kane also has the dynamic personality that should make him an appealing MVP. He should also know if the media had intensely covered all of Hull's off-ice activities in his hey day--or his hey, hey, stop-doing-that day--the Golden Jet may have a slightly different image even today than the Wild Thing we have heard about.

Quite obviously, images can be drastically altered overnight, as Kane is discovering. He is on a learning curve that could land him at the top of the heap at the tender age of 21.

If he thinks the glare of the spotlight has been uncomfortable, wait until he is weighed down by a MVP win. His hardest tests are yet to come. It looks like a fun time for all of us.

One-for-all, all-for-one. we'll be happy with all our playoff shares. Time and money well-spent.

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19 Comments

SharpKane said:

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I feel like part of the reason people like Ovechkin, Crosby, and Thornton win the Hart is in part due to the lack of greatness surrounding them. These people are clearly the MOST VALUABLE people on their respective teams. On Versus the other day they said that something like 20-25% of the Pen's and Cap's goals have been scored by Crosby/Ovechkin. The Hawks are too good for Kane to stand out as the MVP of the league if his teammates are within 15 or 20 points of his year end total.

I feel like he is deserving, especially considering the improvements he has made in the last two years, but I just don't know if the NHL will think the same way as you or I.

The guy is a beast, that I know.

Mike Kiley said:

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You make an excellent point. It's the Michael Jordan factor. Players who are the clear standouts on their team because no one is close are "superstars" and "MVPs." But I think it has to be a consideration that Kane is the best forward among a group of talented players, and just as Keith and Toews get defensive recognition in their fields, Kane has to be singled out. I also believe his age weighs against him. People think he has to wait his turn. Bullshit.

FearlessFreep said:

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Ovie gets props because the guy is unbelievably good, and though there are some other very good players that play with him (Green, Semin), he is outstanding in that regard.

Crosby gets mentioned because he'll forever be the NHL's golden child - despite the fact that Malkin is still the MVP on that team. Malkin hasn't scored in six games, and during that time, the Pens have managed to win only one (last night).

Hate to beat up on Thornton, but he has garnered himself a reputation of not producing in the playoffs, and that's a tough reputation to shake. He's very good, but he needs Heatley, and Heatley needs Thornton. Take either one away, and you've got blubber.

If the MVP was awarded to the guy most valuable to his team, you gotta suggest Kovalchuk though (ironically, given all the talk about him coming here). Without him, Atlanta would absolutely be lost. Also Shane Doan from Phoenix - he's basically taken that franchise on his back along with Bryzgalov.

Mike Kiley said:

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So, Freep, you give Kane no shot at all?

FearlessFreep said:

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No, not saying that at all. But I think the points made above are valid - the "Jordan Factor" will sort of dilute the enthusiasm for Kane because so many of his teammates are also great.

If Kaner does put together a tremendous stretch in the regular season and the playoffs, I think his stock definitely appreciates for NEXT year, since these awards are chosen before the playoffs. There is still an awful lot of attention paid to guys like Ovie, Crosby, Thornton, Heatley, and so on.

If the Hawks win the you-know-what, these guys become household names for any award next year.

Mike Kiley said:

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It's up to us to change the status quo, which usually sucks.

Alligator Derski said:

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Those names are still much bigger than Kane's in the eyes of the national media, but since we all watch the Hawks every game, we recognize all the little things Kane does. He creates space when there is no space and makes things happen. He has some of the fastest hands I've ever seen, and his ability to pull the trigger when give the opportunity is making him more of an overall threat.

Give him space and he'll shoot, get on him and he'll find someone else. I think the NHL loves the Hawks and would be happy to turn over the media attention crown to them in the years to come, but I'm sure they want the Hawks' road to the top to be memorable; if Kane wins the Hart at 21, who is his rival and what is the NHL marketing?

Dave Morris said:

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Doctor Kiley, I concur with your diagnosis.

Pat Kane for the Hart? Why the hell not?

Mike Kiley said:

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Morris, I need more enthusiasm. Beat the drums for Kane. I was accused of being too hard on the lad for his misdeeds. Having done misdeeds myself, I need help building up the lad for MVP. Imagine what I might say about the prolific Kane with three martinis behind me. I'm trying to be rational now. Why does no one feel my love?

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, if the Hawks win the Western Conference title and who knows what else, and Mr Kane continues to be the reincarnation of Stan Mikita and Denis Savard, expect the shapeless mass of media hacks to be ready to line up behind you.

Cheers.

fattybeef said:

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If you want to get real crazy the hawks can win every award but the rookie of the year and goal tender ones...

SouthSideHawkMan said:

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This season has been a blast so far, as a Sox fan during the offseason this Hawks team reminds me of the 05 Sox. Lets hope it ends the same way. I could careless about awards. Mike I read your blog about Kovalchuk, I think you go "all in" (sorry I play alot of Poker), make the deal! One goal remember, I'd be perfectly content with Kovalchuk skating outa town if he does so with helping the Hawks win a Cup. Go Hawks!

Mike Kiley said:

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Now you're scaring us. What happened to the Sox after '05. The same thing that happened to the Hawks after '61. Let us enjoy our allusions.

fattybeef said:

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Lets go go go White Sox... Whats wrong with that 05 team. There was a great article how they should have been the team of the decade on ESPN. World Series in my lifetime. Good stuff.

Anyways. The Sox have suffered from players declining with age and chronic injuries. The Hawks dont look to have either of those problems. At least not the age one you know for sure.

Kane has had an amazing year so far but the Hawks are the ginger bastard child of the NHL. He needs to score 120 points and the Hawks need to continue beating the hell out of everyone.

If he doesnt win this year he'll be primed for the next several as long as he keeps improving at this rate. He could consistantly score 130-150 points/season for the next 10 years so if someone else gets it this year... Oh well Kaner is going to have it on lock down soon enough.

Dean Youngblood said:

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Hell Yeah. I agree, Kane has not come out of his shell yet. He has much more to offer.

100 plus point seasons would be easy for him. But, the team is not organized to allow one person to score like that.

Kane's numbers show that he is towards the bottom of the point leaders. But, if you consider his ice time, then he kicks ass. The point leaders spend more time on the ice than Kane.

Jerry Kayne said:

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I'll back Kaner when he puts the team on his back and single-handedly wins some games. Oddly at this time he hasn't been needed to do so. The Hawks have balanced lines and roll all four. The big silver trophy is the only one they need. After that the pundits will then look for some offensive heros for us.

Also, Kane hasn't developed into the all-around player he needs to be to be an MVP. He will and I can wait. There's much more to an MVP besides points earned. Like backchecking and defensive zone coverage. On the other hand Dunc has and deserves all the press he gets.

Due to the Hawks recent dormancy they're only beginning to get national press. Unless there's a Hawks total domination for the rest of the season, the Hawks will still be under the radar. And that's a good place to be for now.

Paul said:

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Hey Mike, it's Paul from Follett. 1st)I think if the hawks win the Stanley Cup and Kane gets 100 points there's no way he doesn't win the MVP. 2nd)You're not here today and it's lunchtime, but I just had a thought that made me so excited I had to run it by you for your opinion. Much has been made about how this might have to be the hawk's year because there's no way for them to keep this entire team together with the salary cap. Why not help both of these issues by making a serious push for Ilya Kovalchuk??? Although I love Patrick Sharp and Dustin Byfuglien, wouldn't every hawk's fan gladly say goodbye to them and their 6 million dollar combined salaries to land Kovalchuk as a rental player??? The hawks would probably have to give more than just that to get him, but it clears up cap space for next year, and in my opinion, makes the hawks a significantly better team for the remainder of this season. Looking forward to your response!

Mike Kiley said:

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How many GMs in history have taken a first-place team in midseason that is playing to championship and significantly tinkered with the mix via trade? While getting Kovie would be a stroke of genius, I question whether Bowman is going to fix what ain't broke, an idea that many of our loyal readers and opinionators have already exprssed on this blog should be what the Hawks do--stand pat. If Bowman made the deal and the Hawks didn't win the Stanley Cup, he would be one guy the finger fell on as a reason for the shortfall. Not many GMs willing to stick their neck out that far.

Dmband said:

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Unfortunately, in all sports, the MVP award typically goes to a guy whom, if absent from his team, would cause a radical dropoff in performance. You could make a reasonable case that the Blackhawks, without Kane, would still be a playoff team.

I dont agree with that, but usually MVP goes to a guy who is the main and only reason why a team is successful. I believe the Hawks are so deep and talented, they could withstand the loss of a player such as Kane. Now that speaks volumes about the type of team we have.

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