Last week, the Winnipeg Jets finally did what they had been expected to for the better part of two seasons. In trading Evander Kane, the Jets cleansed themselves of a player who they believed had become too much of a headache to keep around and attempt to develop, despite his enormous potential. They shipped him to Buffalo, where he'll try and realize that potential next season.
Kane's tenure with the Jets was one plagued by supposed controversy. He had run-ins with multiple coaches, staged an arrest photo with a New York City police officer, showed up for games in tracksuits, and, of course, that famous Las Vegas picture in which he used a block of cash as a phone during the NHL lockout. None of these things were as egregious as they were made out to be, but they certainly didn't endear him to any fans, players, or coaches in Winnipeg during his tenure there.
It's a story not unlike what Tyler Seguin went through in Boston. A player drafted when he was 18, Seguin was unable to grasp any semblance of maturity with the Bruins. He was constantly mired in Twitter controversy, with pictures of him partying surfacing throughout his tenure. As it would turn out, like the Jets, the Bruins weren't willing to wait for Seguin to mature. They sent him onto Dallas where he has blossomed into a superstar (albeit an injured one at the moment) in what will surely go down as one of the more lopsided trades in the history of the National Hockey League.
The change-of-scenery discussion has featured plenty of Evander Kane and Tyler Seguin. In addition to the two, it certainly lends itself to a healthy amount of talk of Patrick Kane. It's no secret that Kane had a number of his own issues off the ice, not unlike the aforementioned situations that Evander Kane and Seguin slogged their respective ways through before they were traded. The difference with Patrick Kane, of course, is that he never had to change zip codes.
Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks demonstrated a patience that much of the league seems to lack with its young, immature, but immensely high upside players. It wasn't as if they didn't have reason to try and find a suitor for Kane. He brought plenty of negative attention to the organization with his antics. The Buffalo cab driver story, in which Kane allegedly assaulted a cab driver in his hometown, is still utilized as a punchline by opposing fans and media members. Additionally, there were a number of instances that featured Kane appearing publicly intoxicated. Whether you fancy the Vancouver or the Madison occurrence as the go-to reference there, it wasn't a good look for no. 88.
Yet, here we stand just a few years later. Not only is Patrick Kane at the top of his profession as the league's top point-getter, he's turned himself into quite the upstanding gentleman. As his game on the ice has matured and developed, so has his personality and character off the ice. He's regularly appearing at youth hockey practices or games handing out equipment, or at a local McDonalds just to surprise folks. He's become much more aware of his image, and he's managed to transform it as a result.
At the same time, it's important to acknowledge that it's not all Kane doing that himself. The organization had to get him going in the right direction after these occurrences. When you take into account the leadership in the locker room, starting with Jonathan Toews and trickling down to plenty of others, it's easy to see why Kane was able to take those steps. The Blackhawks had the right infrastructure and leadership in place, and, as a result, they were able to be patient with Kane. The results are paying off now, that much is obvious.
Not every team has the luxury of being patient, or the type of system (on and off the ice) that would allow a young, immature player to develop that necessary maturity in the window that they have available. Sometimes they have to cut ties with that player and try and build in other ways. That may or may not have been the case with the Bruins and, more recently, the Jets. The Blackhawks were able to do so, and they are now reaping the fruits of their labor.
We talk so much about the maturation of Patrick Kane on the ice, and how he's developed from a very good player with high-end skill, to a bonafide superstar at the top of his craft. Yet, it's still very important to acknowledge how he has changed as an individual, especially in the wake of something like the Evander Kane trade. Credit Kane for realizing what he had to do in order to change the perception and his image, and credit the Blackhawks for helping him through that process. They really are an organization standing above most of the rest of the league.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.