Patrick Kane, in terms of production, manufactured another fantastic season for the Blackhawks in 2021.
Playing in all 56 games, he recorded 66 points, which will place him in the top seven in the NHL once every team finishes.
But as the year wore on, something looked slightly off in the 32-year-old superstar. In Monday’s season finale, he took off on several potential counterattacks — with the crowd, accustomed to so much Kane magic over the years — only to pull up and eventually turn the puck over.
And in his exit interview Tuesday, Kane confirmed he has dealt with a previously undisclosed injury since the 2020 playoffs last August. He declined to specify the exact injury.
“I’ve got one little issue that I’ve been dealing with,” Kane said. “[I’m] trying to figure that out and hopefully it’s nothing too serious. Hopefully [I’ll] just get it fixed and not have to worry about it next year.
“We’ve done a lot of good things to make it feel good in games, and then other games it hasn’t felt as great,” he added. “So it’s just an ongoing process. Hopefully we can get to the point where I’m not feeling it at all, and [I] feel strong on the puck and feel like it’s not an issue when I’m out there. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Kane said he expects to know more about what it will take to fix the issue, and how long the recovery process will take, after additional conversations with doctors in the coming weeks. He sounded optimistic he’ll be back at 100% health for training camp in September.
In the meantime, Kane anticipates a more low-key offseason. He wants to spend more time with his son, who turns 6 months old Wednesday.
Kane captained Team USA in the World Championships in 2018 and 2019, the last two times the event occurred, but isn’t attending this year’s tournament, which runs May 21 to June 6 in host countries Latvia and Belarus. Brandon Hagel (Canada), Dominik Kubalik (Czech Republic) and Nikita Zadorov (Russia) are the three Hawks so far confirmed to be participating.
“The past few years I’ve really skated a lot in the summer,” Kane said. “I’ll maybe take a little bit more time off the ice [this summer], but I don’t think it should affect anything I’m doing as far as training and working out.”
The wear-and-tear buildup is somewhat inevitable due to Kane’s age and tenure in the NHL, having hit his 1,000-game milestone this season. He reflected on the “full circle” aspect of evolving from the Hawks’ youngest player during his first few seasons to their oldest — by more than four years — in Sunday and Monday’s lineups.
Kane also lamented his lack of goal-scoring this season. He finished with 51 assists yet only 15 goals, and scored just four goals in 33 games after hitting the 400-career-goal milestone Feb. 28. The self-blame is largely unfair, considering he still led the Hawks in scoring by 10 points, but that dissatisfaction has always fueled him.
“[When] I was producing a lot and had a big start to the season, we were in a playoff position,” he said. “Obviously, that didn’t continue and we faded out of a playoff position. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Those two things go hand-in-hand. In the future, [I have to] produce more consistently and be better for the team.
“With the way our team plays now, it’s not so much puck possession as it is moving the puck ahead and tracking it down. I’ve been used to playing that puck possession game my whole career, so it’s a little different, but I have to find a way to create no matter what the situation is. [I’m] looking forward to bouncing back next year.”