Well this one’s easy. It’s rare that a player gets any sort of Hart Trophy buzz for a team that doesn’t even get all that close to a playoff spot. This year two of them did, and that’s Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane. Which tells you the strata Kane inhabits, and he’s doing it at over 30. 30 isn’t the cut off it used to be, of course, especially not for the truly elite in the league. Crosby, Bergeron, Marchand are all over 30 with Kane, Stamkos is 29 and you wouldn’t expect much of a drop-off there. Still, it’s clear all of them have more help than Kane did. Let’s go through it, though you pretty much know it all by now.
81 GP – 44 G – 66 A – 110P
48.6 CF% (-0.91 Rel) 43.6 xGF% (-2.18 Rel)
It Comes With A Free Frogurt!
All of it? Kane’s 66 assists, 110 points, 35 even-strength goals, 45 even-strength assists, and 80 even-strength points were all career-highs. His 341 shots were a career-high by a mile, and is probably the biggest transformation in his game. Because his 12.9 shooting-percentage is really only about career-average for him, and not the spiked 16% he put up in the year he did win the Hart. So yeah, stats-wise it was ridiculous. And if you watched this team every or most games, you know there was a period there where Kane was the only reason they were scraping to even just overtime a lot of nights, or getting the full two. And he did it with a variety of linemates, not just permanently out there with a running buddy like Panarin in 2015-2016. Six different forwards racked up at least 200 minutes with Kane at even-strength. That’s two lines’ worth getting between 15-20 games or so with Kane. And while their metrics were all over the board with and without Kane, only DeBrincat saw his goals-for percentage rise be better without Kane than with him (giving you some idea the special player Top Cat is). It was simply the most dominant season Kane has put together, and it came past when most players are supposed to have peaked. Yes, it was an offensive league this year and a lot of players saw a spike, but not like this.
The Frogurt Is Also Cursed
You really have to stretch to find things for Kane’s season. Kane has never been an exceptional possession player, but he’s never had to be. He’ll always out-shoot what his expected goals are because he’s that talented a scorer and playmaker and basically you have to be a true buffoon to screw up the chances he’s going to provide for you. Still, Kane’s metrics were the worst of his career, and if that trend were to continue and he were to have some kind of cold streak it would get kind of ugly in a hurry. Some of that can be attributed to playing with defensively inept players like Strome or DeBrincat to an extent, or to Toews not really being the two-way dynamo he once was, but Kane’s usage is probably going to have to get more and more sheltered as he gets older. There were some nights where you could tell he clearly couldn’t be bothered in his own end, or all over the ice at some points. But given the mess this team was it was hard to blame him all the time. And he would still put up two or three points.
Kane flagged a bit as the year went on, mostly due to the insane workload he was being asked. Kane averaged more than two minutes per game more this year than last, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He would get double-shifted on nights when the Hawks were trailing, which was most nights, so not only was he playing more but he was playing more while chasing the game against bunkered in defenses specifically set out to stop him. It was only natural he wouldn’t keep up the pace, and there are a lot of players who would love to close a season with 16 points in 18 games. It just wasn’t the standard he’d set.
I guess the one question to ask is that the two best individual seasons Kane has had, the Hawks haven’t really done shit. When he won the Hart, they were bounced in the first round. He was arguably better this year, and they only waved at a playoff spot as it drove by. That’s not really on him, and speaks more to the limited influence a winger can have. We can point to Ovechkin, but he can only do so much and if Backstrom and Kuznetsov aren’t there, the Caps probably aren’t a playoff team either. Again, this is more on what’s around Kane than him.
Can I Go Now?
No matter how you slice it up, Kane was on the ice for 84 even-strength goals and 67 against, which is 55%. That latter number doesn’t rank all that highly, but that goals-for is best in the league. And there were only four ES goals he was on the ice for that he didn’t either score or assist, which is…well, insane. You feel like Kane could do that offensively again, and if there was an actual defense behind him it could bring the goals-against down and then you’d see some real shit.
You get the feeling that Kane would prefer to just have set linemates for most of the year, but I don’t know if that’s possible. The Hawks need to add a top-six forward, but it’s hard to see who they could add to set everything in stone. They’ve always been hesitant to pair up Daydream Nation for anything longer than a spurt. Kane and Strome together gets far too domed defensively. Toews isn’t the force he was at that end, so putting them together doesn’t solve everything. They would still need a two-way left-winger. Which you would think could be Saad… but there are “issues” there, let’s say. And that would leave what for Top Cat and Strome? Again, none of this is Kane’s fault.
It is unlikely that Kane will put up 110 points again. But it wasn’t likely he’d do it in the first place. If the Hawks get that top-six winger, and improve the defense so that they actually have the puck more often, and with Kane’s now heavy-shooting ways, 100 points is hardly a big ask.