According to Patrick Kane, he isn’t worried about his position on the Chicago Blackhawks next season.
During a panel at the fifth annual Blackhawks Convention in July, a fan asked Kane whether he’d rather play center or right wing. After telling a short anecdote about Jonathan Toews’ reaction to him taking first line rushes in practice at the end of the season, Kane’s answer was brief: “It doesn’t matter to me. Winger, center, wherever they want to put me, I’m happy.”
It may not matter to Kane, but it most certainly matters to head coach Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks head into the season without a solid second line center, and rather than sign a free agent or make a trade, Quenneville and General Manager Stan Bowman have decided to look from within to fill in that hole.
Kane was used as center at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, and he was fairly successful before sliding into a scoring slump from which he never seemed to recover. He was switched back to right wing until Toews sat out the rest of the regular season with a concussion beginning in late February. Kane took over the spot of first line center for those last 22 games.
If the Blackhawks want to use what they have for their second line, they have very few options. They could use Marcus Kruger, but Quenneville has admitted that even though he was impressed with his performance for the season, Kruger would need more improvement. Another option would be to shift the third and fourth lines and place Dave Bolland on the second line, but Bolland has been incredibly effective on the third line and would leave a similar hole there. Then there is Kane, who would need to develop his defensive play and try to find a way to improve his 42.2 faceoff percentage.
Kane has stated in the past that even at wing, he plays like a center. If the Blackhawks use him in that capacity, he’ll need to channel the drive of his captain for the move to work.