|Print article||This entry was posted by Tim Currell on June 11, 2012 at 6:31 am, and is filed under 2011-12 Player Evaluations, 2012 Off-Season, Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
Kane played his whole life as a center and made the switch just before he entered the NHL. Problem with this move is that the next best RW capable player after Hoss is Shaw who also a natural Center. Shaw may be a amazing or he may have had the Rookie bump because he wasn't considered a priority by the opposing team.
Its not the right side where the Hawks have issues, its the left. As Sharp actually spent a lot of time this season playing the right wing (even though he is more naturally a left wing) Also Shaw saw tough quality of competition, playing with Bolland (and who cares if he is a "natural" center, it's way easier to make the move from center to wing than vice versa)
While the move to center is certainly a difficult adjustment, especially for a player who cut his teeth in the NHL at the wing position, I would not go so far as to say that Kane was put in a position to fail. Rather, exactly the opposite, Kane was given every opportunity to succeed in his new role. In fact, the only Blackhawk who received a higher percentage of his zone starts in the offensive zone was Brandon Bollig, easily the most sheltered of the Hawks players. Meanwhile, players who we would think of as being considerably more sheltered than Kane (or perhaps as players who should be more sheltered than Kane) like Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Michael Frolik, and Brian Bickell all had considerably tougher sledding (as Kruger took on the secondary shutdown role after Bolland, and Bickell, Frolik, and Shaw all took on tough checking line assignments). Also, Toews faced considerably tougher competition, when he was heatlhy. Meaning, that, when Toews was healthy, Kane was getting lots of O-zone starts against opponents secondary skaters. That seems like it should be a recipe for success for a guy with Kane's offensive talents, doesn't it? Regardless of whether he was a center or a wing. Actually Kane's late season points surge came when Toews was hurt, and could no longer shoulder the minutes against tougher checking opponents, which raises big questions about earlier in the season. Was it an adjustment to playing center? Maybe. Was it just plain bad luck? Also, maybe, Kane was still one of the Hawks best CORSI Relative players (although Viktor Stalberg was better CORSI relative despite facing slightly tougher opposition) Does this suggest Kane needs to stay on the right wing. Probably But, does this excuse Kane from any blame for what was, easily, his most disappointing season to date in his (still very young!) Blackhawks career? HELL NO. Now, that doesn't mean he should be traded, or that he's lazy, or doesn't care, blah, blah, blah. I don't buy any of that stuff. What it does mean, is that he hasn't done much in 2011-2012 to ingratiate himself with the coaches, the front office, or his teammates and had better correct that in 2012-2013.
In addition to that, I'll just say that: there are quite a lot of stats to suggest that Kane is capable of being (or even should be) a successful second line center on the Blackhawks. The defensive shortcomings are what they are, but Kane is utilized in such a fashion (most of his non-neutral ice starts are O-zone starts, very rarely does he take a draw in the defensive zone) that is meant to maximize his offensive prowess (If he could win or draw, or even learn to win a draw, then there would be a strong argument to be made that then Kane should be a center). When Kane is on the ice the Hawks generally dictate puck possession, the only Hawks with Better Corsi Rel. in 2011-2012 were Jonathan Toews, Viktor Stalberg (oddly enough), and Patrick Sharp, who faced considerably weaker competition, Sharp's 2011-2012 Corsi Rel. QoC was suprisingly low, despite his reputation as a penalty killer and two-way player). So, since Kane often controls the puck in the offensive zone, his successes in puck possession show that he ought to succeed at scoring as well, even at the center possession. His likely hood of success only goes up, also, with a healthy Jonathan Toews, who crushes competition despite difficult matchups, and would drive down Kanes' CORSI Rel. QoC, which, one would think, would lead to more scoring opportunities, a better +/-, etc., etc., etc.
Last one. I keep thinking of things after I hit the post button. The absolute futility of the Power Play (a unit, on which Kane often played wing) was absolutely brutal. It, at least in part, contributed to Kane's poor over all numbers (fewest PP goals and points yet in his career). Conversely Kane shares culpability for the poorness of the PP.