Well, you knew we had to address this at some point. And it's a big question coming into this season, because along with Hossa, there's only one other player on this team who can crack the top-10 in scoring. And that's our boy, 20-cent. So, what's in store for Kaner? A whole lot, but we'll get to that.Let's look at last year. Until Dec. 30th, Patrick Kane was averaging a point per game, was in the Top-10 scoring, and generally lighting up the league. Then came the oh-so brave Dan Cleary, and a fucked-up ankle. An ankle he shouldn't have been playing on for at least a week, probably two, and Kane was never the same. However, his scoreless streak last year was matched by one his rookie year, so can it all be chalked up to health? Maybe, in that it could be the rigors of an NHL season is a lot to take for Buffalo Smurf. Thus the news of his bulking up this summer and being a little quicker is so encouraging. Now he can take contact better, and also avoid more of it.
But Kane is in for something he's never dealt with this season. It's one thing to be the face of a franchise, it's another that every time he goes into an opposing city, the media is going to ask him whether he used a right-cross or left-hook. Opposing fans are going to let him hear it from warmups on out. He'll also constantly be dealing with questions about his RFA status at the end of the year. None of this sounds enjoyable. As far as the abuse from opposing fans, Kane seems like the type who would relish it, and live to shove it down their throats. The increased media scrutiny? Remains to be seen.
For a lot of The Ba'taan Death March last season, Kane wasn't scoring. That's not coincidental. The Hawks require Kaner to be a point-per-game player. It also allows support players to be support players, without feeling the pressure of carrying the team. We heard last year that Kane had improved his shot, and yet we so rarely saw it. Still, he ended up with 25G, but if he'd unleash that shot more often, that would jump to 30-35. It would also free up his vision and passing ability on the power play. Right now, everyone knows that when he's on the half-boards, he's looking to dish. Just firing it net-ward occasionally would free up space, like a hitter starting to hit to the opposite field to get the inside fastballs he desires.
Frankly, with everything going into it, and his next contract riding on it, I expect Kane to explode and flirt with a 90+ point season. I also won't be shocked if he curls into a shell, which would probably still result in 70+ points. The difference could be a parade, or all of us shaving prematurely in late May.