Photo: ESPN

When the season ended, the five of us here at Cheer The Anthem held a “draft” of sorts, to determine who did which player’s evaluation. A couple of rounds went by and I saw that nobody had picked Patrick Kane yet. So I said, “Okay, sure, why not.”

That was late April.

Now, regretting that decision, I decided to separate this evaluation into two parts — to dispense with the off-ice shenanigans and trade discussion up front, then on Monday we’ll talk about how Kane plays hockey.

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We’ve all seen the pictures and read the articles about Patrick Kane’s Cinco de Mayo visit to Madison, Wisconsin, so I’m not going to re-live the experience with you now. But from this we know three things: first, the kid is a binge drinker, if not an actual alcoholic; second, that this behavior has established itself as a pattern over the last 3 summers; and third, that he is to the point where he needs help. Arguing with these points is merely denying reality and making excuses for a kid who doesn’t need people to make excuses for him anymore.

To that end, I am going to — once and for all — destroy the “Let him be a kid, that’s what you do when you’re 23!” argument. Patrick Kane is not “a kid”. He is a $6 million per year hockey machine. And because of that, his “earning curve” is different from any regular “kid.”

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Above is a graph of average earnings by age group for workers in 2010. This is kind of rough, but it gives you the general idea. When you’re young, you earn less; when you’re late-middle-age, you are at your peak of earning power; and your earnings generally taper off when you get closer to retirement age. That is a typical earning curve for folks like you and me. And ladies, I will apologize on behalf of my gender for the inequities in this graph, just please don’t blame the messenger.

From this, you will see that the average “kid” earns about $343 a week at age 19. What did Patrick Kane earn per week at age 19? $71,634. Slight difference there, but maybe I haven’t fully illustrated my point. What about age 23 like he is now? Well, the average male worker earns $449 in a week; Kane earns $115,384.

Patrick Kane is not “a kid.” He is different. His behavior needs to be different, for his own good. The next comparison should illustrate why in graphic detail.

When the average worker is 55, at the peak of his earning power, he will be pulling down just under $1000 a week. Ask Patrick Kane what he earns at age 55. I’d be willing to bet that — not including income from investments purchased with money from his playing days — Kane doesn’t earn a dime.

This “kid” has an inverted earning curve. In fact, it’s not a curve, it’s more like a cliff: he’ll earn millions per year until he stops playing hockey, then in terms of a paycheck received from an employer, he’ll be lucky to earn one red cent. His endorsements will have dried up, he has no college education, he’s not well-spoken, and he is not the brightest light on the tree. That rules out careers as an announcer, player-agent, and pro scout right away. Some players have gone on to successful post-NHL careers; I have no faith that Kane will be one of them.

But if he’s smart, that won’t matter. Patrick Kane will earn enough in his playing days to set himself up for life — IF he doesn’t screw it up. And while “That’s what you do when you’re 23″ applies to a kid earning $343 a week, it does not apply to Kane. Similarly, if a 55-year-old spends his weekends running around town getting hammered, he’s putting his prime earning years in jeopardy. That applies to Kane right now — whereas when Kane is 55 he can go swimming in a pool filled with Stolichnaya every day and it won’t matter one bit. The time for Kane to get drunk and screw everything that moves is when he retires — just the opposite of you and me.

In short: the “kid” needs every dime he can get while he’s still playing. Which means he needs to 1) keep playing, and 2) keep his market value high. There are two ways to do that: play well, and don’t get your ass in trouble off the ice. Which brings us to our next topic: the trade rumors.

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The Blackhawks are usually an extraordinarily tight-lipped team. When they do say something, it’s because it either won’t hurt them, or it will help them. For those of you that can remember that far back, when Tyler Arnason accompanied Theo Fleury to a strip club, then had a confrontation with then-coach Brian Sutter that ended with one of the two being choked in the locker room, the team didn’t say a single word. This team keeps player issues in-house, period.

But that wasn’t the case here. Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman was asked about Kane and the Madison incident at a press conference to announce some free-agent signings, and said this:

We’ve discussed it with Patrick and we’re handling it internally. We’re obviously disappointed how it played out, and Patrick is aware of that fact.

This statement says VOLUMES about this incident and the interaction between the team and Kane. Let’s break it down.

First, no, they are not handling it internally, they just said something at a press conference. If they were handling it internally, they would not have said a word, and they DEFINITELY would not have said they were “disappointed.”

Second, Bowman said, “Patrick is aware of that fact.” Not “Patrick is remorseful and knows he embarrassed himself and the team,” not “Patrick recognizes that he needs to address this issue in a more serious manner,” just a bland acknowledgement that the team had discussed the matter with Kane. What does that mean? The team brought it up, and Kane said, “Go fuck yourself, leave me alone.” To me, “Patrick is aware of that fact” says “Kane is defiant and not willing to acknowledge that this is a problem that needs attention.” I am not the only one who will interpret it that way…

Third, why didn’t Bowman merely say, “No comment?” As I said, the Blackhawks only say something when it won’t hurt them, or when it helps them. This was a precise, calculated move directed at two audiences: Kane’s agent, Pat Brisson, and GM’s around the league.

With these two sentences, Bowman torpedoed Kane’s value on the open market. He implied that Kane is a head case, a potential alcoholic, and a defiant pain in the ass. Why would he do that? Two reasons. First, to send a VERY strong wake-up call to Brisson that he had better get his client in line. Kane’s market value dropped precipitously during that press conference, and Bowman put himself in a good position for negotiating Kane’s next contract by doing that. Kane’s reputation was just damaged with most, if not every team in the league, reducing his likely asking price as well as the number of bidders when it comes time for Kane to go UFA. I am confident Brisson needed a Klonopin after that press conference. I am also confident that he gave his client a jingle when the convulsions stopped.

But Bowman accomplished another goal with far more immediate impact by making that statement. Every GM in the league now has at least a seed of doubt in their mind that Kane might be a drunken head-case. Now, any GM would be risking his job with a questionable and most certainly expensive trade to acquire Kane, given his very public displays of drunkenness and the tacit admission by the team that Kane isn’t willing to end his frat-boy antics.

This does have a silver lining however, as Bowman would never have made those statements if he didn’t have faith that Kane will turn this idiocy around and develop into the player everyone knows he can be. That’s definitely good news.

But, we can pretty much answer the question right now once and for all: are the Blackhawks trading Patrick Kane? No, they are not — or more accurately: no, they can’t.

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I’m not giving out my rating for the lad just yet, and these goings-on won’t affect the rating he gets from me. Playing hockey is Patrick Kane’s job, and I will only evaluate his season based on that criteria. Come back and visit us on Monday when we’ll talk about his season on the ice, and take a look at what might be in store for him next year.

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