I sort of wanted to start the player evaluations with Michael Frolik, because I think he might be the biggest question mark for the Blackhawks moving into the off-season. But, Patrick Kane is in the news right now, and well, has made himself a big question too. I also see a great comparison between the Blackhawks as a team, and the play of Patrick Kane. He had some really bad rough patches, dominated at times, seemed excited one day, then non-existent the next, can be easily pushed away physically, and is defensively frustrating. But when he is on, man is he good, though he seems to need a certain kind of environment to flourish. In other words, he is inconsistent.
Now that I think about it, his success is very closely related to the Hawks success. We all know that Toews is the engine of this team, but is Kane possibly the stirring wheel?
Given his off-ice antics, this is a guy I do not want behind the wheel. These antics, which I will presume to be true, are causing a rush of rumors about his possible trade. The whispers had begun even before the season ended, with his 2nd underwhelming year in a row, and although I am still on the fence about what I would really do if given the choice, I do not see his Cup winning goal as enough reason to keep him around. One lucky goal does not grant you amnesty. Kaner is like a brand new Porsche. Sure, it can run beautifully and perform amazingly, but you really can't drive it in all conditions, and you rarely do, because you don't want to see it totaled in an accident. When conditions are right though, man can that thing handle brilliantly.
Lets look at the stats:
Kane played in all 82 games which is pretty impressive. He scored 23 goals and recorded 43 assists for a whopping 66 points. His shooting percentage wasn't all too great and is a place of concern moving forward. When all is said and done, I really don't think anyone is happy with him unless he is getting a point a game. Toews pretty much did this, and he brings so much more to the game. Toews and Kane will always be compared, whether or not it is fair, and I think this also offers an area for concern moving forward. I personally thought Kane was due for at least a 90 point season and that 100 was within his reach as the season started off. What a disappointment.
The Good Stuff:
When Toews was out, Kane stepped it up big time. Even when he wasn't scoring goals, he was adding to the overall play of the Hawks during this stretch. Until this point, my support for him was waning.
His personal set of skills are ellite. No one has the hands that this guy has, and that can be widely seen from time to time, but not all of the time. By the end of the year, he had finally realized how much frustration he could cause goaltenders with this power in the shootout, but you you have wonder what took him so long. He also has great vision, usually a pretty strong sense of the ice, and can pass with the best of them. It is often that the sheer threat of these talents being used gives him enough space to make things happen for the Hawks. It is often that opposing defenses will not attempt to pressure him, at the risk of creating an odd-man situation, or being made to look foolish. When he is at the top of his game, he is of superstar caliber. He even seemed willing to make some hits, and play some defense at points this year.
The Bad Stuff:
Where do I start? Well, as mentioned, 66 points is not going to cut it, especially following another not so great year, and especially for a guy with his skills and role on the team. These skills are extremely well suited for the power-play, and we all know how that went. In fact, I believe that Kane's performance this year had a direct impact on the PP. Just another reason how he is the man behind the wheel of this team's success. Defensively, the Hawks were weak, and so is Kane, although there were bouts of strong play in this area, especially when Toews was out. When Toews took a seat, Kane stepped up, but is this all great news?
I fear that Kane will never be able to get out of Toews' shadow, and that he might need to in order to be successful. His play in the just mentioned scenario is some evidence to this. Kane's mental preparedness for games is suspect, as is the Hawks in general, but his seems to have a larger impact. He was terrible in the playoffs, and I don't think it was a coincidence that it came with Toews' return. Kane likes to be celebrated, and can use this as motivation at times, such as making Luongo look silly. Without getting to much further into it, I just have my doubts about his potential to meet his expectations, and his mental stability could be why.
As with a few other players, I feel that this inability to meet expectations is hindered with Q behind the bench. Kane is one of the players that I personally believe is not a believer in Q (I have my reasons). Although, since he is one of the trophied "core" players, Q gives him the ice-time to produce the points we all anticipated. Unfortunately, his bouts with every pairing imaginable, and in every forward position throughout the season hindered this. However, when all is said and done, Kane is one of the players where I feel coaching should not have been enough to keep him from excelling. He is just too darn talented, and his skills are more realized than others. Q's place within the system does however, give me reason to doubt Kane's performance for next season as well. Can we handle another disappointing season from him?
And then we have his off-ice focus. Okay, I get it. He is a young millionaire, a little reckless, but nothing too distant from what other kids his age are doing, especially if they had money like he does. While I get it, I sure as heck do not condone it. When he was said to have beaten up an old taxi driver, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and made excuses for him. When he was flaunting his stuff around town without a shirt, when he should have been focused on hockey, I laughed and looked the other way. When he was getting kicked out of Chicago bars (A young celebrity with lots of expendable income), I began to worry. With recent news, I am kind of done with it. His head is not in the game. He does not have to be the model citizen, or someone for young hockey players to look up to, but he should be decent enough to stay out of the news. It all points to a guy who is not ready to handle certain things going on in his life, and anyone who gets paid that kind of money to play a game, should be held to at least a slightly higher standard. You have to live and breath what you do for a living sometimes. My god, a teacher is paid enough to warrant a second job, and is pooped on in society at the moment, but if he or she is seen with a wine glass in their hand on Facebook, they get fired.
My point; life his hard sometimes, and being great at what you do takes a lot of extra work. Work that the average citizen is unwilling or unable to accomplish. So, lets not make excuses for him. Kane needs to show us that he is better than this, and capable of being the poster child for this team, and earning of his place in the "core", and willing to work at it to make things start working. He said he wanted to be better at the start of last season. When do we hold him to that?
Yes, I think trading Kane is an option right now. If sitting Frolik so that Scott can play is an option to this administration, while Frolik does all of the little things right accept put the puck in the net. Then, given Kanes recent on-ice and off-ice performances, makes it a worthy conversation. This Hawks team needs to start building some character, and Kane is a good place to start.