Chicago Blackhawks: Has Patrick Kane Already Reached His Peak?
Is Patrick Kane a superstar who has flashed his ability over the first five years of his career but has not fully developed it?
Or is he just a skilled player who is what his numbers say he is? A 25-to-30-goal scorer and nothing more.
Kane, of course, had his biggest moment at the end of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. He scored the Stanley Cup Finals-winning goal in overtime of the sixth game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
If Bobby Orr scored the most memorable Stanley Cup-winner in history with his famous flying goal, Kane scored perhaps the strangest. Kane fired a shot from the left wing that was clearly going to test Flyers goalie Michael Leighton as it headed toward the goal. He went down to block it and the puck disappeared from sight.
Nobody knew where the puck went except Kane, who saw it go under Leighton and sneak past him. The puck tucked itself under the padding at the bottom of the goal and was never in plain sight.
While nearly everyone on the ice was wondering where the puck went and confusion reigned supreme, Kane took off and speed-skated the length of the ice before reaching goalie Antti Niemi.
Kane knew the puck was in the net and the Hawks had won their first Stanley Cup since 1961. The nature of the goal denied the Hawks their "we did it!" moment, but it served its purpose.
Any player capable of rising to the occasion and scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal must have supreme ability.
Kane has also had several not-so-stellar moments with the Blackhawks, particularly off the ice. Kane has had several incidents that have led the Blackhawks and their fans to question his maturity and commitment.
Whether its posing with his shirt off in a Vancouver limousine with teammates and women, brawling with a Buffalo cab driver or enjoying the college atmosphere of a Madison, Wis. tavern, Kane has not always had his mind on hockey (per The Chicago Sun-Times).
Could his interest in the nightlife be part of the reason that the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NHL draft has never scored more than the 30 goals he had in the 2009-10 season?
It could be part of it. Kane scored a very respectable 88 points in that championship season, the only time in his career he has averaged better than one point per game.
In 2010-11, Kane totaled 73 points, and last year he finished with 66 points.
That has to be troubling for the Hawks. Kane, 24, should be approaching the prime of his career. He has five full seasons under his belt and it's not the usual career path for a No. 1 draft pick to see his point total dip in seasons four and five after a stellar year three.
Kane and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will forever be linked together because they both joined the team as rookies in the 2007-08 season. But while Toews is seen as one of the best all-around players in the league and is known by his nickname of Captain Serious, Kane is still looked at as an up-and-down player who likes to party.
Head coach Joel Quenneville and Toews have both gotten on Kane for his inconsistencies on the ice because they know he is capable of so much more (source: NBCSports.com). While they have been frustrated by Kane from time to time, they know that he has remarkable talent.
Nothing is set in stone for Kane. He is a remarkable talent who can stick-handle with ease and has the speed and quickness to create his own opportunities.
If immaturity has been a major issue for him throughout his run with the Blackhawks, he can certainly take responsibility for it and make the appropriate behavioral changes.
Kane has to realize that he still has the talent to become that superstar, but he must take a page from Toews' book and become much more serious in his approach.
He is not going to become Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos, but he can become a 90-to-100-point scorer for the Blackhawks.
He has not reached his peak and the best is yet to come—as long as Kane finally starts to show some signs of maturity.
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