Even though he still finished last season as the team’s leader in points, Patrick Kane was not 100 percent during the 2020-21 season. Something was holding him back. After finishing tied for fifth in the NHL in points with 66 in 56 games (including scoring his 400th career goal), Kane revealed after the season that he had been dealing with – what he called – a “nagging issue,” one he decided to play through since the 2020 postseason when Chicago was playing in the Edmonton bubble.
Now, as the team prepares for the 2021-22 season and training camp is set to begin in less than a week, Kane revealed in an interview with Tracey Myers during the NHL Media Tour that he is still working to get through this issue.
From Myers’ report:
“It’s something that I worked on all summer, so it’s been, I don’t want to say frustrating, but it’s been like nagging me a little bit,” Kane said at the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour on Thursday. “We’re at the point now where I think it’s finally starting to turn the corner and seeing some progress.”
“To be honest with you, I’m excited with where I’m at. Hopefully I’m feeling good to start the season,” Kane said. “Obviously, I have different conversations with doctors and the training staff, so I’m sure we’ll kind of readjust it. But to me, there’s no worries going into camp.”
That’s not exactly the kind of thing that Blackhawks fans want to hear from the player that would likely be guiding the ship for the 2021-22 season. A season that has increasingly high expectations for Chicago after the offseason additions of Seth Jones and Marc-André Fleury (among others) and the expected return of Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews.
It was already going to be difficult for the Blackhawks to be Stanley Cup Playoff contenders in a stacked Central Division. Even with the numerous offseason additions and expected improvements to the lineup, Chicago was still going to be on the fringe of the postseason. A lot of the success or failure of the season was already going to hinge on what version of Jonathan Toews was coming back to the team. Having any doubts or concerns about what version of Kane was going to be on the ice only makes things more cloudy.
And speaking of Toews’ expected return, Kane sees the clear value in having a healthy and motivated Toews back in the mix and what it does for the Blackhawks players on and off the ice. While there still is no official timetable for Toews’ return, having him on the ice as training camp approaches gives Kane and Chicago more hope for the upcoming season.
From Myers’ report:
“It’ll be nice to get him back in the lineup and have like that 1-2 punch that we always had when we were on different lines,” Kane said. “It makes it a little bit more of a tougher matchup for other teams, so that’ll be nice to have him back.
“He’s working hard. You can tell he’s really focused on getting his body and his mind in the right place to be able to play and be successful. Other than that, I mean, just happy to have him back and such a big part of our team, you know? Whether it’s on the ice or off the ice, [he] just brings that presence.”
What we can hope for is that both Kane and Toews are ready for the start of the regular season on October 13th. Players like Seth Jones, Marc-André Fleury, Kirby Dach, and Alex DeBrincat are expected to play major roles for the Blackhawks this season, but having to pick up slack behind Jonathan Toews and/or Patrick Kane was likely not supposed to be part of the deal. While the improved and developing supporting cast in Chicago is expected to raise the floor of what the Blackhawks can be, the ceiling is still dictated by the play of Kane and Toews.