In praise of Patrick Kane

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Guys, I have breaking news, come quick: Patrick Kane is good at hockey. No really, I mean it.

The thing is, Kane has developed into so much more than that. You can make the argument that he might be the most talented hockey player on earth.

Sidney Crosby is obviously The Guy in hockey, but so much of what he does comes from being one of those child prodigies who’s raised to believe that nothing matters other than being the best in the world at your sport. This stuff matters to him, he’s hungry. But if Crosby is Tiger Woods, Kane is Phil Mickelson, casually demonstrating he can do everything the best in the world can do, only he prefers to be an actual human being in the process.

Kane was drafted first overall in 2007, an undersized skill guy with a lot of potential. Well, he reached it. Patrick Kane’s resume at 25 is stunning.

He won the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) in 2008. He won the Stanley Cup in 2010, scoring the Cup-clinching game-winner in overtime. He won Olympic silver that year. He won the Cup again in 2013, this time winning the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP in the process. And this year, he’s legitimately embarrassing NHLers. I feel like doing the And1 mixtape towel spin at least once during every Blackhawks game I watch.

Here are two clips from his last two games before we get all the way into what makes him so special. Last night vs. Colorado:

It’s that crazy good backhand that puts him in elite, elite company: only Crosby and Datsyuk score on clean backhand shots as often as him. Remember this one?

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Anyway, the game before, the Blackhawks played the Sabres.

Oh, I see.

Chicago won that game by a goal, 2-1, which reminded me of a quote from Dean Lombardi when the Kings acquired Marian Gaborik. Here’s how explained the acquisition

He has something we don’t have. We don’t need him to be ‘that guy’ every night but you’re going to have to win us a game here or there when we don’t have our game going.

That’s what Chicago has done. Chicago can [struggle] and then [Patrick] Kane can just do something off the charts and they go home with the two points.

And that’s the thing with game-breakers, difference-makers – it’s not that every shift is jaw-dropping, it’s that here and there, once or twice a game, they do something that another player in their spot couldn’t do. It’s that elite talent that steals you games and wins you Stanley Cups, and Kane’s ability hasn’t gone unnoticed around the league.

Here’s a remarkable quote from Jaromir Jagr in December on what Kane does:

(Kane) and (Pavel) Datsyuk are my favorite players to watch. (Kane) is kind of the prototype player from 1995, and he’s playing (now). He slows the game down and that’s the way we used to love it.

These young kids, they don’t do it anymore. They just go straight out with the best speed they have and hit the boards and go the other way. But (Kane) is different. That’s why he can dominate the league because he plays a different style. He slows everything down but he has the first two steps so nobody can take the puck from him even though he’s not a big guy.

His intelligence is far ahead than a lot of guys (and) he knows how to use the strength he has to his advantage. Not many guys can do that.

“Can stickhandle in a phone booth” is an old adage in hockey, and nobody lives it better than Kane. He exists in traffic without sweating, and like Crosby and Datsyuk, always moves the puck to a better place. There’s a zillion talented, dumb players out there, who believe they’ll personally benefit more by showing what they can do with the puck. They don’t give it up until they have to, and even then, they do it reluctantly.

The names I’m grouping again here – Kane, Crosby and Datsyuk – have no qualms about moving it before they have to, making short passes, making small chips. You’ll get the puck back sooner from your teammates than you will your opponents, as these guys demonstrate night in, night out.

Kane is currently tied for fourth in scoring in the league with 67 points in 63 games, and sits a goal below 30 with 17 games to go. He’s nine points shy of 500 career points in 511 games. And best of all, he’s one of the few players in the league (along with Phil Kessel) that starts to pull you out of your seat every time he touches the puck.

He’s a first ballot Hall-of-Famer in the making, and again, he’s only 25. We get another decade of this at least from the guy, and maybe longer. After all, he’s also more or less unhittable. I always knew the guy was good, but it’s getting out of hand.