This Week's Grind

Y'know, it's funny. Even before Lane Staley's death I had long concluded Alice In Chains was basically Jerry Cantrell's band, exemplified by Cantrell more and more taking over the vocal role in the band. But after Staley's kicked it, Cantrell's solo career and then recent AIC reunion hasn't really popped, or even come close to it. Maybe Lane was more important than I thought, and perhaps I should have put more stock in the harmonies that Lane and Jerry put together that's never really been matched by any mainstream rock band with any talent. But there you go.

Wait, I'm supposed to talk about hockey? Oh, well I guess I'd better get to it then:

-In a divergence from my usual rants in this space, I'd like to start with an ode to Patrick Kane. I know it might sound strange coming from me, as I was leading the critical sledgehammer on him last season when his social habits became the main story with the team.

Believe me when I tell you it was done out of fear and concern for a player that is still the most gifted I've ever seen wear a Hawks uniform, and I didn't want to see what could be a remarkable career derailed by a car wrapped around a streetlamp (funny that it was his more staid, conservative, and loved running mate who managed that one, no?).

It's also why I had years taken off my life by listening to calls for Kane's trade by the great unwashed, and the labels of "lazy, spoiled, uncaring" that get attached to Kaner. And this week is the example on why those claims and insults were just about the stupidest fucking thing ever.

When your best player goes down, fans and players alike talk endlessly about needing to raise their game to fill that void. Which is exactly what Kane has done, and he's doing it an unfamiliar position of center. He's been the best Hawk for three games running, and that's including play at both ends of the ice.

While I don't think Kane at center is a long term answer, I get why it's working now. Part of Kane's scoring slump, other than the low shooting percentage, was teams are defending him differently than they ever have when he was on the wing. Teams sent two defenders at him as soon as he entered the zone, and aggressively after him. They weren't letting him pull up and look for late men. If Kane could have done anything different, it would have been to head to the net more often than he did, but with his size -- even though he's stronger than he gets credit for -- that's not really his game. Essentially, teams treated Kane like bouncers to someone who's been banned from a bar trying to get back in to said bar (see what I did there?). It's actually a wonder that this didn't happen earlier in Kane's career.

But in the middle, they can't do that. Sending two or three defenders at him from the pivot means he's got two wings to play with, instead of trying to get a pass through one direction that's being quickly closed off. It also gives him more room to dance through, which he's taking advantage of.

In the long run, Kane's size and struggles at the dot will be a problem as a center. There's no way around that. Tomorrow night should be an exquisite test. The Leafs, Sens, and Scum leave open spaces as they attack. Scum Jr. does not. Kane can expect to see David Backes humping him all night, and Kane hasn't always responded to that well. Then again, Backes's and the Blues' antics as a whole threaten to turn that sneer Kane has found into a full blown scowl and "Fuck You Mode" into overdrive, and no opponent should want that.

The Hawks called for someone to step up in their captain's absence. Kane has responded with all he's got, at a strange position. You really want to question his heart or trade him for a overpaid goalie on the wrong side of 30? Do you?

-Dear Pat Foley. With five minutes left in a one-goal game against the Hawks oldest rival is not the time to spend two minutes of game action talking about the video coach's baseball prowess. We don't fucking care. Neither should you. Do Comcast or WGN have an actual director in the truck to sort of nudge Foley back on point? I'm shouting at the rain again, aren't i?