What can be said that hasn't already been said about Patrick Kane? Kaner builds more talk off the ice than he does while actually playing hockey, which is pretty difficult for a guy packing the skills he does and especially considering that he won a Stanley Cup by the age of 21 which included the Cup winning goal. Kane's ability to make defensemen's heads spin is quite an entertaining experience and so is following his young career into superstardom.
Just like so many other Hawks this past season, I think Kaner had a down year. Possibly the result of an annoying ankle injury (those just don't ever heal), and definitely a resulting affect of the lacking physical presence on the team. Kane has been quoted as mentioning how the vacant toughness allowed opposing players to run rampant on his smaller frame. Rendering the offensive giant slightly crippled.
Kane still managed a 70 point season, which is nothing to sneeze at, but still falls short of what I believe we all expect out of this puck handling magic. In fact, I don't think I will feel like he has hit his potential until notching a few 100 point seasons, or in the least a 90 point year. He just wasn't quite there this year. His shot was most definitely not, missing the mark so often he just stopped shooting. Where was the confident young lad from yester year who consistently challenged goaltenders to his top shelf wrister, or who took the extra chance and made a drive to the net?
Kane seemed out of energy as much as the next guy, and his defensive contributions were laughable to begin the year. A few too many visits to the bar after hours maybe? Shockingly, defense is the area that Kane ended up improving on more than any area of his game. A neagtive 11 at one point, Kane started back-checking, and even physically took players off pucks which resulted in a plus-6 rating by the end of the year. Down from last year yes, but I saw an improved defensive player all around. Stats never tell the whole story.
An area I feel fine pointing angrily to stats in Kane's performance is at his PP goal production. 5 is just not going to cut it for a player with his talents. Part of this is because of his inability to push the envelope this year. There were many shouts at the T.V to just shoot the damn puck. Hesitation kills a sniper. He never took any chances, unless you call his fascinating but useless spin-o-rama taking a chance.
The fact remains that when Kane is on his game, his puck handling skills are stellar. His ability to control the puck leading to a heavily favored puck possession game knocks me out of my seat even when nothing happens as a result. This is why so many NHL players have found it best just to give him the space he demands, which only serves to open up more opportunities including that brilliant cross ice pass he has become so famous for. This space is quite the gift and Kane just couldn't use it this year. I doubt he goes very long without cashing in on it in the future though.
Once again, as I have with so many other Hawks, I expect a huge season for him coming, but can everybody Im anticipating breakout performances from actually live up to it? Will Kane be the player we anticipate? Is 100 points too much to ask? Does he have the focus and personal drive to make it happen?
Kane is known to be a big family guy which is something that bodes well for a guy who has had a slightly controversial personal life. It is an element that I usually chose not to comment on. A: because you never know the truth, and B: because I think it is a personal issue that should be dealt with as such. So if there is an off-ice concern for Kaner, I would hope that the administration deals with accordingly . Just remember that the guy is only 22 now, and became a superstar by the age of 20. You are allowed some follies, just get it together at some point. There is a large audience depending on it.
Final grade: I feel pretty sound in handing out a grade somewhere in the C+ range. 73 points isn't too shabby. But when the bar is 100 points, it seems like a heavily underachieving year. He is only 22, I got give him something to strive for, and he has lots of time to get there. Building on his defensive game is a good accomplishment in its own right.