As part of our ongoing preview of the 2014-15 Chicago Blackhawks season, we will be counting down the 10 players who will be most important to the team as they try to win their third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons.
We keep the countdown rolling today with the number nine player on our list, as Patrick Kane takes his turn under the microscope.
It may seem strange to put such an integral part of the team’s offense so low on our list, but that shouldn’t be taken as a step to diminish his importance so much as a reflection of just how deep and talented this team is.
Kane is unquestionably one of the most explosive players in the NHL, and no matter who Joel Quenneville put out there with him in the 2013-14 season, Kane succeeded. He ended up with 29 goals and 40 assists, and even though his regular season was cut short by a lower-body injury, the winger still was able to come back and make a sizable impact in the playoffs as well.
While some players’ impact can’t necessarily be measured in traditional statistics or by defined roles, Kane’s is pretty easy to explain. He is arguably the biggest cog in an offensive engine that features some of the most talented players in the game, and his ability to facilitate offense through his exquisite passing and willingness to carry the puck up the ice and into the offensive zone makes him really difficult to defend against.
Where Kane’s impact will really be felt this season could be on youngster Brandon Saad. After a year in which the forward bounced between the first and third lines, he could end up finding a good home with Kane and Brad Richards on the second line, and the trio could form one of the most explosive offensive lines in the game.
Of course, knowing Quenneville’s strategy, the group could be split up in an instant if he feels like changes need to be made, but judging by what we’ve seen so far in training camp, this trio could become a go-to grouping like the defensive pairing of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya is. Whenever the Hawks need a jumpstart to their offense, Kane’s speed and vision will be key, and he should continue to progress as he nears the beginning of the lucrative new extension he signed during the summer.