For a month and a half now (43 1/2 days, but who’s counting?) Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane has been sidelined with a (regular) season-ending injury, a fractured collarbone. It was almost like another Groundhog Day for Hawks fans, but instead of “just” 6 additional weeks of winter, we were in for 12 weeks of some very gloomy days.
Then, two miracles happened:
- The Hawks were winning games anyway. Not only were they winning, they were doing so in an impressive fashion against some very tough teams that they will no doubt face in the playoffs this year.
- The Hawks have hinted at the distinct possibility that Kane will return to the line up far ahead of schedule, albeit in their typical “we’ll see” non-committal fashion.
Kane has been skating for a while now, but when he returned to practice – and especially when he was cleared to take shots earlier this week – well, the excrement really hit the air-cooling propeller among the fan base.
The Hawks, once a team that could easily be considered a goalie’s worst nightmare, have had to put out an APB for the jerk who stole their mojo with offense. So naturally, social media denizens are all but celebrating the Stanley Cup that the Hawks haven’t won yet, simply because beat writers are hinting that Kane will be back as early as the first round of playoffs (as opposed to the original estimate of the Western Conference Finals).
It’s fine to be optimistic, as long as we are being at least somewhat realistic as well. Otherwise, our disappointment will be very bitter indeed if the Hawks find themselves with an early postseason exit without having seen Kane in action again this season. It’s also important to (at least try to) think long-term. Rush Kane back too early, especially in a situation as intense and physically punishing as the playoffs, and the risk of re-injury increases. (You might have heard about this guy who goes by the nickname “D-Rose”…enough said.) Sure, Kane is still pretty young at only 26 years old, and still has a long career ahead of him. Personally, I find that prospect more exciting than the chance of his early return.
That said, and assuming he truly will be adequately healed before the team even thinks about putting him back in, Kane will certainly be a force to be reckoned with. To my knowledge, no other player is making a return from injury so close to (or during) the playoffs, especially one who has been sitting out for so long. Kane will be the most physically and mentally rested player out there. He has also been practicing, so his skating and now shooting wont be rusty.
But – and it’s a pretty big “but” – he has not (yet) been cleared for contact. When he does, how much contact in practice will he need before he returns, to see if he really is ready for a real game? It’s the playoffs – the hits are going to be much harder than those during the regular season. The Stanley Cup is a huge reward, but is it worth this kind of risk?
That’s the $10.5-million dollar question.
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