Credit Blackhawks' Kane with growing up

There was something about Patrick Kane's time in front of the media last week that struck me as different.

Unable to discover it in my notes, or put my finger on it, I listened to the entire interview again as Kane discussed the 2013-14 season on locker-cleanout day.

When he began talking at length about the successful line of Kane, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, it hit me.

"I think we saw a little success at the end of the year with myself, Shaw and Saad," Kane said. "They're two young and enthusiastic guys who want to do well and play hard."

Wait, two young guys? Kane is all of 25 years old. Sure, Saad is 21 and Shaw 22, but it's not like Kane is nearing retirement after seven seasons in the NHL.

"We found some success there," Kane said of the line that collected 19 points in the final three games against the Kings. "Just talking to those guys, I think it's important for us to have a strong summer. Make sure if we're playing together when we come back that we're ready to go right off the bat."

Without reliving the unfortunate incidents of summers not long ago, this is Kane talking about using the off-season to become a better player, being more prepared for next season and mentoring young players who probably haven't quite figured it out yet.

Yes, Patrick Kane sounds like he has grown up.

Of course, actions in June, July and August will speak louder than well-chosen phrases at a year-end news conference, when everyone tries to say the right thing, and it's possible Kane could show up on Twitter this summer with pictures embarrassing himself and the Blackhawks.

But it's been a couple years now since that's happened and Kane doesn't seem to want that anymore.

When asked what he intended to work on once he returned home, Kane said, "Probably everything.

"One of the things I really want to work on is my agility, the way I can cut and maybe beat defenders a little bit more than I was able to, especially after the (knee) injury I had at the end of the season.

"I always try to work on my shot, especially as fast as the game is. It's tough to get scoring chances, so the better your shot the better your chance to score from farther out.

"Skating, strength, everything. Work on everything."

Instead of partying, Kane now cares about being great, winning, staying in shape and helping his younger teammates.

"It's fun to see some of those guys grow up right in front of your eyes, whether it's over a playoff series or a whole season," Kane said, again acting the elder statesman. "But Saad was impressive.

"One of the most dominant games I've ever seen was Game 5 here (at the UC against Los Angeles) and he was all over the puck all night. He made it really easy for me as a linemate to make plays and get the puck, and he made a lot of great plays that night.

"He's a special player. He's still very young, obviously, and he's just going to keep getting better and better."

When the subject of his next contract came up, Kane said repeatedly that he hadn't thought about it yet or spoken with anyone about it, not while there was a chance to win another Stanley Cup.

"That was never really on our minds," Kane said of himself and Jonathan Toews. "It's not something I or Jon plays for, the contract or the money. We're playing to try to win and because we love the game."

As he walked away from the microphones and nearly out of the room, Kane stopped and said, "Hey, thanks for everything this year."

It wasn't necessary, but it was nevertheless smart on his part. Playing nice with the media is always a good idea.

Let's face it, the kid has grown up, though it doesn't sound like he thinks of himself as a kid anymore.

To listen to him talk is to believe it's not an act, that he woke up at some point - probably with something more than a gentle push - and determined that the path he was on was destructive and threatening to shorten his career.

It's really an impressive transformation, and it's hard not to be struck by how much he's changed.

Kane didn't have to do it. He could have gone on scoring a lot of goals and making a lot of money without it. But to win, garner respect and achieve true NHL greatness, he understood he had to do it. It's a remarkable adjustment and a demonstrable difference.

And for that, Patrick Kane deserves all the credit.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane displayed a level of maturity at a postseason media conference last week that impressed Barry Rozner. Associated Press
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