Patrick Kane focused on improving, even as Blackhawks rebuild around him
“I’ve always been a guy that tries to better myself and tries not to worry too much about other people’s jobs or what the next step is as a franchise,” Kane said Monday as the Hawks opened training camp.
Patrick Kane’s name has become practically synonymous with the Blackhawks.
But many of the other longtime Hawks with similar pedigrees no longer surround him. Corey Crawford is gone. So is Brandon Saad. Jonathan Toews is ill. Brent Seabrook was mysteriously ‘‘unfit’’ for the first day of training camp Monday.
The remaining old core essentially is made up of Kane and Duncan Keith — at least for now. But Kane grinds on, entering the 14th season of his NHL career as fervently as he did the first 13.
‘‘I’ve always been a guy that tries to better myself and tries not to worry too much about other people’s jobs or what the next step is as a franchise,’’ Kane said Monday. ‘‘As a player, you want to win now; you want to compete now. And I think we can do that with this group. I think we can surprise some people.’’
The interview represented Kane’s first public comments since the Hawks’ 2020 playoff run ended in August.
With a full offseason to communicate with the Hawks’ front office and wrap his mind around their new bottom-feeder reputation — although the team seems eager to disprove it — Kane struck a much different and more agreeable chord than fellow cornerstone Toews did in October.
‘‘As an organization, you have guys at the top that are going to make those calls that you have to respect and you have to abide by,’’ Kane said. ‘‘That’s just the way it is. Our job is to go play the games, to try and develop ourselves to be the best we can, and their job is to make those decisions.
‘‘As tough as [those decisions] are sometimes, that’s just the way it is. It was good hearing from those guys, too. They obviously have a vision for what now and what the future looks like. We have to be a part of that. We have to jump on board to what their thinking is . . . so we can help make that happen.’’
Speaking of Toews, Kane said he recently spoke with him and didn’t want to share too many details about his health to protect his privacy. But Kane sounded emotional talking about it.
‘‘Hopefully we have [Toews] back soon, and, if not, all of us told him just to make sure he’s OK before that happens,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s obviously in the back of our minds, and we’re thinking about him. It doesn’t really feel like a team without Jonny as our captain.’’
Without Toews and Kirby Dach (broken wrist) — the latter of whom Kane likely would have skated alongside in 2021 — Kane instead was on a line with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome during drills Monday.
The Hawks will experiment with many line combinations during the course of camp, but that trio seems as though it might be permanent. They and Adam Boqvist stayed on the ice long after an intense bag skate concluded practice, lightheartedly passing the puck around for one-timers.
‘‘I’ve always liked playing with Strome,’’ Kane said. ‘‘He’s a guy I’ve had some chemistry with, and I’ve scored a lot playing with him. And with DeBrincat, we’re always kind of together, whether it’s training or skating. So I’ve developed a good friendship with him.
‘‘It’s an ongoing process, but I would be excited to play with those two guys, and I think we can do some pretty good damage.’’
Also helping to keep Kane’s mood high has been the company of his son, Patrick Kane III, who was born Nov. 12.
He has discovered there’s ‘‘no better feeling in the world’’ than coming home to his new family after morning workouts. And compared to son’s hockey skills two months into life, even the Hawks look pretty good.
‘‘I tried to put a hockey stick in his hand the other day, and he really wasn’t having it too much,’’ Kane said, laughing. ‘‘Maybe he won’t like hockey. Who knows?’’