LAS VEGAS — Patrick Kane has a long list of things he wants to improve on after the best season if his career — his shot, his explosiveness, his agility. And thanks to an extra seven weeks of summer following the Blackhawks’ first-round playoff exit, Kane is already a couple weeks into his offseason training regimen.
And this year, he’s doing it in Chicago.
Kane changed the narrative during the season, his brilliant on-ice play seizing the attention from his off-ice troubles, after a woman accused Kane of sexually assaulting her in his Western New York home in early August (Kane was not charged, and the Erie County district attorney emphatically dismissed the allegation). And the Hawks want it to stay that way. A source said the team wanted Kane to stay in Chicago for the summer, to keep his focus on hockey and to keep him away from any potential trouble back home. Through a spokesperson, Kane and the team said it was purely Kane’s decision.
Kane — in Las Vegas for Wednesday’s NHL awards show, at which he’s a virtual lock to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP — didn’t get into specifics as to why he’s staying in Chicago rather than go back to the Buffalo area for the summer. And he also said he’ll still be “back and forth” between his two homes. The Hawks winger had no interest in talking about the investigation and the toll it took, or the emotional roller coaster of the past 10 months.
Instead, he’s trying to make the most of his first long summer since 2012. His face shaved and his hair cut short, Kane wore a white polo shirt and looked noticeably stronger than he did at the end of another grueling season. Kane said that while on-ice work is fun and easy to get up for, the challenge is to find the motivation to put in time at the gym during the offseason. He looked to LeBron James’ stirring performance in the NBA Finals as a motivating force.
“It’s been a lot of fun watching LeBron do what he did in the Finals, and you can kind of take motivation from that, too — how hard he’s worked and what he’s done in his career,” Kane said. “He’s a player, too, that has had a lot of critics and a lot of people that maybe you could call haters or whatever, and he’s silenced them. Can’t really talk about him anymore. It gives you motivation, for sure.”
Kane is coming off a career season in which he had 46 goals and 106 points, becoming the first American-born player to win the scoring title. He’s a shoo-in for the Hart Trophy. But he still sees room for improvement.
“I’m pretty happy with where my game was at during the regular season last year,” he said. “I still think there are some ways I can improve. … As a competitive player, you always want to work on everything. You want to work on every part of your game and make sure it’s getting better. That’s what I’ll probably try to do this offseason. Then I’ll probably stay off the ice for a little bit, try to get my body where I want it.”
Kane deferred some of the credit for his monster campaign to linemates Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, pointing out it’s the first time he’s had a stable line in years. Panarin, who is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, sheepishly accepted the praise.
“I’m very glad to hear that, I’m glad that he thinks that,” Panarin said through an interpreter. “He may be making that up, of course. But I should also be giving him credit for my season and the contribution he had to my success. Not only him, but also Artem Anisimov. And the coaching staff that trusted us.”
Because of the police investigation into the allegation last August and September, Kane spent most of his summer off the ice. He’s hoping to benefit from the added rest this year, continued stability and chemistry with his linemates, and, as much as anything, a return to normalcy.
The still-palpable sting of the Game 7 loss in St. Louis is yet another motivating force, as well.
“It’s been a little frustrating to watch … because we believed we had a good team that could have made a run this year, too,” Kane said. “I got to spend a couple weeks on vacation, rest and unwind. You come back and teams are still playing, it’s kind of a weird feeling. That’s something I’m sure a lot of us didn’t like. Hopefully we can get back there and compete again.”