If you’re friends with any fans of the Chicago Blackhawks or if you follow any of their fans on Twitter, you’ll likely be aware that many fans are panicking over Patrick Kane. Kane’s production, particularly his nose for goal, has all but disappeared for the majority of the past month.
Is there a legitimate reason to be concerned with Kane or is this just an instance of a young forward going through a rough patch?
If you take a quick glance at Kane’s numbers you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Through 48 games he has scored 11 goals and chipped in 30 assists for a total of 41 points. These totals aren’t those usually associated with a skater that’s been struggling. His mark of 41 points leaves him ranked 25th in the NHL in total points – a mark most players would be thrilled about.
However, this is Patrick Kane and his standards (as well as ours for him) exceed that of an average or good player. Currently, he is below his below his typical point-per-game pace with 41 in 48 games, but he could easily close this gap with a couple of big nights. Nothing to be concerned about there. He actually improved this ratio by a decent amount in his game on Friday night where he tallied a goal and an assist.
To date, Kane has struggled in January. Honestly, we shouldn’t be all that surprised. When researching Kane’s statistics, January has been a fickle month for the past several years. Look for yourself.
January 2007: 14 games, 9 points (Ended with 72 points in 82 games)
January 2008: 12 games, 3 points (Ended with 70 points in 80 games)
January 2009: 15 games, 15 points (Ended with 88 points in 80 games)
January 2010: 11 games, 7 points (Ended with 73 points in 73 games)
January 2011: 10 games, 6 points (Season not completed)
As you can see, the best Kane has done in January prior to 2012 was in 2009 when he posted 15 points in 15 games. Every other January in his career has seen him perform well below the point-per-game pace.
Historically, Kane hasn’t let his slow performance in January derail his final numbers.
However, we aren’t out of the woods yet. While I believe Kane’s final point total will hover in the neighborhood of a point-per-game pace, I am concerned about his declining goal total.
Through 48 games in 2011-12, Patrick Kane has just 11 goals. With the season over 50% completed, Kane is projecting to finish the year with 20 or fewer goals at his current rate. This is an alarming development as Kane scored 30 in 2009-10 and 27 in 2010-11. The hope was that Kane would take the next step forward in his development and perhaps surpass the 30-goal plateau this season.
Why the sudden decline in scoring? The answer may be simpler than you think. First, Kane is surrounding by All-Star talent. Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp are quality talents in the NHL and have made Chicago’s offense a formidable one. However, with this much talent, the scoring tends to spread out more. Kane has other teammates capable of burying the puck and he sees less opportunities as a result. On a team with fewer stars, Kane likely scores at a higher clip due to the fact he is presented with more shooting opportunities by weaker players that don’t want to fire the puck.
There’s also the fact that Kane’s shooting percentage is tracking towards its lowest total since Kane has been in the NHL. Since arriving in the league, Kane has posted shooting percentages of .110, .098, .115 and .125. To date, Kane’s percentage in 2011-12 is .071 – a mark that improved with his tally on Friday. The season still has plenty of time for Kane to right the ship in regards to this percentage, but the current low rate could be caused by several factors. Kane may be forcing shots in areas of the ice that have a low probability of success. Also, Kane may just be going through a streak of bad luck and bad bounces, an intangible yet very real factor for a player in the NHL.
As Kane displayed last night, nearly derailing the whole theme of this article, there’s no need to worry. Players are bound to go through rough patches. The talent in Chicago is bound to spread the wealth some yet Kane is destined to have another productive year in 2011-12. With Kane, the best is still yet to come.