Hawks' Kane admits it's depressing to keep missing playoffs, reveals he's been dealing with nagging injury
Winning came so easily for Patrick Kane at the beginning of his NHL career.
From his second season until his 10th, the superstar winger helped lead the Blackhawks to three division titles, five conference finals and three Stanley Cup championships.
During that epic stretch, the Hawks took the city of Chicago on a joy ride second only to the Bulls' run to six NBA titles in the 1990s.
Those games in April, May and June were must-see events. Edge-of-your seat drama full of thrilling victories as well as agonizing defeats.
Walk into the dressing rooms afterward and you'd find utterly exhausted athletes, some wondering how they'd muster the energy for the next game.
But it was all worth it. After all, that's what they play for -- what they live for.
It's a feeling Kane has barely experienced since the Hawks won the Cup in 2015. After first-round exits the next two seasons, the Hawks missed the playoffs in 2018, '19 and '21. Only a bizarre pandemic scenario in which 24 teams qualified for the postseason allowed the Hawks to escape a four-year drought.
For the most part, Kane has put up a brave front and done an impressive job of keeping an undermanned, constantly changing squad competitive.
Still -- to no one's surprise -- the losing is getting to him.
"You keep missing the playoffs, it obviously becomes depressing," Kane said Monday during the Hawks' final media availability. "You want to be playing in the big games, the big moments.
"It's obviously tough ... and at the end of the year, it'd be easy to point fingers as to why we missed the playoffs. But you take it upon yourself to look at what you did and what you could've done to help the team even more."
We all know this team wasn't supposed to do much, but Kane, Duncan Keith, Connor Murphy, Alex DeBrincat and other veterans did their best to change that narrative.
The Hawks were 13-7-5 after 25 games, but then lost 11 of 16. With the postseason still in reach in mid-April, Nashville won two of three to essentially kill the Hawks' chances.
Kane heaped plenty of blame on himself, knowing his lack of goal production (4 in the final 33 games) was a big reason for the Hawks' demise.
Now, how much of that slump was due to an injury? Impossible to say. But Kane did tell us something has been bothering him for nearly a year.
"I've got one little issue that I've kind of been dealing with, maybe even before the bubble in the (2020) playoffs," he said. "Trying to figure that out. Hopefully it's nothing too serious. Hopefully just get it fixed and not have to worry about it next year."
Kane was unwilling to unveil the specific problem, only saying that whatever's wrong, "it" felt good some games and not so great in others.
This revelation isn't exactly a red flag going forward, but it's definitely a potential issue. After all, Kane is 32 years old and has played in 1,165 games including playoffs. The last thing the Hawks need is to be without their top winger for any stretch of time next season.
Kane is optimistic Jonathan Toews will return in 2021-22 and knows what a boost it will be if that happens.
"Great leader. Great friend. So you miss him in that sense," Kane said. "Then obviously ... for me, it makes things a lot easier because whether we're playing together or not, you have that 1-2 punch that gives the other team something to think about. ... (They've) got to be more aware when he's on the ice. Then I can come on next and maybe get easier matchups."
Toews' prowess in the faceoff dot was missed as well, especially on the power play.
Kane knows there are reasons to be optimistic going forward. Still, we've heard that line before and little has changed since Joel Quenneville was fired 15 games into the 2018-19 season.
Is this team really on a path to compete with the likes of Vegas, Colorado, St. Louis, Minnesota, Nashville, Edmonton and Winnipeg?
It sure doesn't feel like it.
The goaltending and overall defense must improve. And boy do the Hawks need a few more big, strong, talented forwards.
One thing's for sure: If significant progress isn't made soon, it's possible Kane decides to play elsewhere after his contract expires in two years.
Not that he's thinking that way right now.
"It's a great organization, a great city to play in," Kane said. "Obviously I've had some great moments here. There's nowhere I'd rather play than here. Hopefully we have a winning team.
"Two years, it seems like a short amount of time, but it's still a long time away. There's no sense of thinking about what's going to happen down the road.
"For me, it's just important having a good summer, getting myself healthy and doing what I can to help the team come next training camp."