Patrick Kane is undoubtedly one of the best players in the National Hockey League, helping lead the Chicago Blackhawks deep into the playoffs consistently over the last several years. With two Stanley Cup Rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy to his credit, Kane is still searching for his first Hart trophy, given to the league’s regular season MVP. Is 2014-15 the year? We take a look at three reasons why Kane may take the Hart home with him in June at the NHL Awards.
#3: Still Yet To Reach His Full Potential
It sounds silly, as Kane has already become one of the league’s most dangerous offensive weapons, but when you take a look at growing room, there is still quite a bit for the soon-to-be 26-year old. He isn’t the fresh-faced teen that the Blackhawks selected 1st overall 7 years ago, granted, but at 25, it would seem that 88’s career years are still ahead of him. On a Blackhawks’ team that will certainly contend for the Stanley Cup, Kane will have to lead the charge among the core that has brought Lord Stanley back to Chicago twice in the last 5 seasons. If the Blackhawks’ power-play clicks, for example, Kane could find himself with some career-high totals at the end of the season, and with a favourable shot to bring home the hardware.
#2: Bigger, Better Supporting Cast
The Blackhawks’ roster remains largely unchanged from last year, but where they did improve will directly benefit Kane; second line center. Bringing in fellow Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards on the first day of free agency is a huge boost for the Blackhawks and Kane himself, who will both be more dangerous with the ex-Ranger in the lineup. Replacing the departed Michal Handzus, who many claimed held Kane back, Richards and Kane, along with a winger such as Brandon Saad, will come together to create the Blackhawks’ second line, worthy of first-line status nearly anywhere else in the league. Facing more favourable matchups as Jonathan Toews’ first line draws the tough defenders, expect Kane to rack up the points alongside Richards in the coming season.
#1: Big Money, Big Expectations
Kane wasn’t quiet over the off-season, setting Chicago media on fire in mid-July when he signed on the dotted line alongside Jonathan Toews, with matching eight-year, $84 million contracts. Although those deals don’t take effect until the 2015-16 season, fans, management, and coaching staff will be expecting Kane to earn those dollars this season, when his cap hit is only $6.3 million, a bargain compared to the $10.5 million he will count for the Blackhawks next season. The Blackhawks are all-in on the Buffalo native, and he has to deliver if the team wants to add a seventh Cup ring to their collection. For GM Stan Bowman, things will be considerably tougher next season, when Toews and Kane combine for $21 million of the ‘Hawks salary cap, so earning another championship in the final season of their old contracts would taste even sweeter.
The skill and support are there. Only eight days remain until Blackhawks fans can watch Patrick Kane march his way to a league MVP! GO HAWKS GO!
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