Chicago Blackhawks 2018-19 Player Grades: Patrick Kane

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 14: Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates during the first period of the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils and the Chicago Blackhawks on January 14, 2019, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 14: Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates during the first period of the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils and the Chicago Blackhawks on January 14, 2019, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

For many Chicago Blackhawks fans, it was heartbreaking to see their team miss the playoffs, despite incredible seasons from their top players, like Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews, and the return of Corey Crawford. Patrick Kane’s season, however, was on another level.

Patrick Kane battled through adversity at every corner this season. His ability to take over a game, frequent double shifts (including powerplays) and his knack for finding teammates with precise passes injected hope into the bloodstream of ‘Hawks fans every time he took the ice.

Although several Blackhawks players will not be receiving high marks this season, Patrick Kane is certainly deserving of elevated praise for several accomplishments during his 2018-2019 campaign. Here are some of Kane’s notable achievements (from Kiki’s Keys):

  • Stats: 81 games played, 44 goals, 66 assists, 110 points, +2 rating, 22 PIM, 1822 TOI
  • 20-game point streak
  • Franchise record 17-game assist streak
  • Career high in assists, points, TOI, ATOI
  • 8th career NHL All-Star game appearance
  • Immense gratitude from the author

In addition, Kane is certainly attracting high praise from fans in this latest poll:

A big factor in these high approval ratings is Kane’s ability to mesh well with teammates. The late November acquisition of Dylan Strome, and Brendan Perlini, from the Arizona Coyotes for Nick Schmaltz generated a solid offensive front on the second line.

The DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line was deployed frequently (2nd to Caggiula-Toews-Kane) and combined for 10 points (12.7%) on even-strength bouts (via Dobber’s Frozen Tools). This was an exciting line. At times, it resembled the chemistry and production that was seen with the legendary Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line, which combined for 29 points (43.9%) at even strength.

I can only imagine the chemistry will grow with offseason training and motivation to improve for next season.

Kane’s Evaluation: A Closer Look

Although Kane had a season of career highs, it was also a very different type of season for the ‘Hawks veteran. He was coming off a disappointing previous season where the Blackhawks missed the playoffs altogether, and a switch in coaching staff/personnel this season didn’t help.

However, comparing changes between Kane’s statistics provides little context for this season, especially with Kane’s elevated time on ice following the Colliton transition. For context, here is a plot of his career ice time:

As we can see above, Kane not only had a career high in ice time, but his values also fluctuate over time, especially with the shortened 2012-2013 season.

Therefore, I wanted to compare Kane’s 2018-2019 season with his past seasons to see any performance improvements while controlling for his elevated time on ice. It would be important to do this, because although Kane had a career high in points, it could be that he simply played more, thus leading to more points.

However, it would be much more impressive if he was producing more points per minute on the ice, compared to previous seasons. The analysis that follows was performed on data retrieved from Hockey Reference and all R code is available on my Github account.

First, I pulled a variety of basic regular season statistics and divided them by Kane’s time on ice each season. Then, I computed a standardized score — called a z-score — that allows comparisons between different stats, like goals (apples) to assists (oranges). Finally, I modeled the linear change over time across Kane’s career.

The above plot is a rich depiction of Kane’s career performance to date in the regular season, controlled for the amount of time he spent on the ice. Additionally, we are able to directly compare statistics to each other via standardized z-scores.

Compared to his past seasons, Kane had record-high shots on goal and total shots attempted per minute of ice time. Furthermore, these two measures have significantly increased across his career. Here is a closer look:

Now let’s take a closer look at the measures that were not significant in their linear trend, but pay close attention to trend directions and the position of the line for the 2018-19 season:

In the above plot, we can see that Kane’s assists per minute of ice time were extremely high this season (second highest in his career). Furthermore, we can see that although Kane had a career high in points this season, it was not his highest output in terms of points per minute on the ice. Despite Kane’s awesome season, he also recorded a career-high in giveaways (54), even when controlled for time on ice.

For a career overview, let’s take a look at the steepness of the slopes for the plots above to get a better sense of the level of increase (positive slope), or decrease (negative slope), across his career:

The above plot suggests that several of these measures are increasing in value, controlled for ice time, across Kane’s career. Most notably, his total shots attempted, shots on goal, goals, points, and giveaways are increasing, while his takeaways are decreasing. Interestingly, Kane’s assists per minute are remarkably consistent across his career, suggesting he’s always had a 6th sense for finding shooters in scoring position.

There is no question that Kane had a tremendous 2018-19 season. He handled the extra minutes with grace and set a career high in points, including a 5 point bout against the Washington Capitals on January 20th, 2019. However, he also recorded a career-high in giveaways, and when controlling for his ice time, he did not score as many goals nor record as many points compared to his prior seasons.

Therefore, I’m going to give Showtime an A- on the season. Kane is always looking to improve his game and we are excited for his return next season.