While the Patrick Kane injury hurts the Chicago Blackhawks at face value, it may nevertheless serve some sort of positive purpose.
It isn’t much of a secret that the Blackhawks have been disappointing for months, playing far below fans’ lofty (but fair) expectations. Explanations for the extended slump have been offered up left and right; as I have remarked, fatigue is a distinct possibility.
It may well be something simpler and less foreboding, however. Perhaps the team is simply bored, biding its time until the “real” season begins in mid-April. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman alluded to such a suggestion, noting that a scout had this to say of the Blackhawks: “There’s a bit of boredom there. They’ve been through this before.”
If that sentiment presently permeates Chicago’s locker room (which seems both plausible and likely), the injury to Kane should dissipate it. Decreased focus and intensity are byproducts of feeling comfortable, which is no longer possible with the centerpiece of the team’s offense and a face of the franchise out of the lineup.
Specifically, the absence of Kane could do wonders for Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad. Sharp has been going through the motions for weeks and has been a non-factor at even strength since the NHL resumed play after the Olympics. Saad, meanwhile, will probably be the player asked to step his game up the most with Kane out. This is what occurred when Marian Hossa was sidelined recently; Saad’s minutes per game spiked and he was deployed in a far more offensive-oriented role.
On a more general level, No. 88 being unavailable for a handful of weeks could quite conceivably erase team-wide nonchalance and replace it with renewed passion, something Chicago fans were treated to from beginning to end last season.
This year’s Blackhawks would be much better for it.