2011 NHL Chicago Blackhawks Offseason: Patrick Kane Seeing His Last Red Horizon
The fan mill continues to rumble with an opinion of possibly trading Patrick Kane this off-season. Hardly believable, when the young 22-year old winger scored perhaps one of the most memorable goals in all of Chicago Blackhawks history.
While Kane is credited with at least a part of the resurrection of the Chicago Blackhawks, many fans (loyal or bandwagon) have voiced their opinion. It is clear that Kane will never be a Jonathan Toews, but what many expect is at least a player that contributes in other ways which justify the dollars being paid.
When Kane arrived in the NHL, the hype immediately followed, as he was an 18-year-old trying to carry the weight of a city on his shoulders. He had the support of the fans and of his coach, Denis Savard. Now as the Stanley Cup Champion status has come and gone, many question the true abilities Kane brings to a roster in need of leaders.
Patrick Kane Has Maxed His Output
When Patrick Kane entered the league back in the 2007-'08 NHL season, many made drastic comparisons to then-coach Denis Savard. Savard became a Blackhawks legend by out-playing his size on the ice.
During Savard's first five season he amazed crowds with his "spin-o-rama" while posting point totals of: 75, 119, 121, 94, and 105. On top of that, the Blackhawks managed to make it to the playoffs every year of Savvy's first tenure with the Hawks (10 seasons). In addition, the Blackhawks made it to the conference semi-finals in five of those seasons, losing all five to Canadian teams.
After four seasons, Kane has put up formidable point totals: 72, 70, 88, and 73. While Kane has a Stanley Cup on his resume, Kane has failed to reach that elite level so many seem to put him in.
In comparison (and not to serve as options the Blackhawks have) to the salary Kane is raking in, here are just a few other names who would be more than capably to fill his shoes right now and could very well out-perform in the years to come: Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Patrick Elias, Mike Cammalleri, Alexander Semin and Mike Richards.
Salary Space Isn't Cheap in a City Needing a Champion
After a well publicized (and criticized) off-season in 2010, the Blackhawks should be proud of their achievements in the '10-'11 NHL campaign. Many holes needed to be addressed and the front office did their part mid-season by bringing in Chris Campoli and Michael Frolik to fill these gaps.
Now looking into the 2011 NHL free agency period, the Blackhawks will once again be pressed with decisions. Unlike last season, much of the talent within the Blackhawks system has had a year to grow into roles in which are now more developed.
The Blackhawks will start by addressing 11 free agents (5 unrestricted and 6 restricted):
Unrestricted Free Agents
Tomas Kopecky ($1.200 million)
Fernando Pisani ($0.500 million)
Ryan Johnson ($0.500 million)
Jordan Hendry ($0.600 million)
Marty Turco ($1.300 million)
Restricted Free Agents
Michael Frolik ($1.275 million)
Troy Brouwer ($1.025 million)
Viktor Stalberg ($1.000 million)
Jake Dowell ($0.525 million)
Chris Campoli ($1.400 million)
Corey Crawford ($0.800 million)
As you can see the list is long. Currently there are only 14 players signed for the 2011-'12 NHL season, and only $8.385 million remains in cap space.
So the question presents itself... By trading away Kane can Stan Bowman utilize the $6.300 million in a way that can makes the team stronger all-around? I think so. Better yet, I know so.
Stacking Up Against the Competition
It was made very clear in the series against Vancouver that depth was not on the Blackhawks side. While the injury to Bickell hurt in many ways, the shallow nature of the line-up went much deeper. The dependency of John Scott to play forward or defense isn't one a Championship caliber team should lean on.
Last year's championship was won because of a complete team. By the looks of this years contenders it will remain the same. It always comes down to the bottom six up front and bottom two on defense. This is where the Blackhawks were weakened. Not necessarily by personnel on defense, but because juggling of who was in and who was out disallowed the opportunity for any pairing to gel.
Up front is another story because it was very apparent that the Blackhawks had a few solid contributors, but not solid lines. While we can look back at this point and prepare for what we may see next year, the focus needs to be on the supporting cast. The role players are what made the championship team so strong and the added salary cap space will allow for the appropriate adjustments to be made.
Playoff Mettle and Contender Heart
The 2011 playoffs made it very clear who was in it for who. We often find praise in success, but we tend to scrutinize any loss ten times more. Unfortunately, what the series brought out in Kane was mediocrity and a true snapshot of what he is made of.
We so often get used to the hardworking Toews and Marian Hossa finishing plays, regardless of whether they have the puck. Unfortunately, Kane is no where near the level of which Toews and Hossa maintain. Numerous plays, Kane was seen avoiding checks or confrontations by merely giving up on pucks, passes, and fore-checks.
In any playoff scenario, it is most often than not the grittiest play that nets the goal. Moreover it is expected that in the playoffs nearly every shot will be contested. While averaging a mere 3 shots a game against Vancouver and only 5 points total it is very clear who is incapable of creating chances for themselves.
The argument of being "targeted" by the opposition is obsolete. Tell me who you would rather have had coming down the lane to score the game tying goal late in the third period? Do you think Kane would have fought to put the rubber in the net after getting dumped on the ice?
There is a reason the Blackhawks top line was never missing the Captain of the team. Joel Quenneville knows that the top line is made of your players that are not only the best, but have a team mentality. They know how to get it done. Kane may have played on the top Blackhawks' line at times in both the regular season and the post season, but remember who was out there when the Blackhawks sent that game into overtime.
The big question is this: Will the Blackhawks be better with $6.300 million tied up in one player, or would they be better off having the freedom to address what needs they have to reach the contender level again?
Patrick Kane did not make the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup champions and neither did any one else on the team. The Blackhawks made each individual player a champion, and unless Kane can refocus and commit to a team mentality his time as a Hawk is limited. But in reality... this ship has sailed and the future of the Hawks success is best not left on his shoulders.