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Patrick Kane and the MVP Season That Wasn’t

Kane

The human brain is a strange thing. It is wired to forget. This is one of the of the most important functions of the organ; sifting through what’s important and stashing it while leaving the rest behind. Last year, scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland determined that forgetting information is an active process that the brain partakes in.

Not being able to remember your third birthday or the first time you saw snow practically keeps you sane, and serious psychological issues can arise if the ability to forget isn’t in place.

Or maybe Hollywood will make a movie about you. One of the two. Maybe both.

 

This is relevant here because sports fans seem to be the least forgetful of all. Talk to 10 random fans about Sidney Crosby. How many of them would say “ah, he’s a cry baby”? Mostly because of things that he did in 2005 when he was a teenage NHL rookie.

Patrick Kane is in a similar boat. Bring up the American forward with fans outside of Chicago and you’re going to hear all about his run-in with a cab driver in Buffalo. Some folks will probably recall the sports outlet Deadspin running a story about Kane partying it up in Wisconsin in May of 2012 (the NHL’s offseason, for those of you keeping track at home).

Most fans probably don’t even know where they absorbed these personal narratives from. They’re in place and part of game’s lexicon now though, for better or worse. The NHL’s echo chamber is real, perpetual and far reaching.

It’s also an easy out and a way to deflect saying something positive about a player that is essentially flying the wrong flag.

If Crosby got traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, you can bet that they’d change their tune about No. 87. That’s the nature of fandom. It’s part of what makes sport so special; the comradery and connection you feel with a stranger that is wearing the same shirt as you. If you walk down the streets of St. Louis with an Al MacInnis jersey on, you’d be hailed with more “Let’s Go Blues!” proclamations than you could keep track of.

The exact opposite thing would happen if you strolled around The Delmar Loop with a Detroit Red Wings jersey on.

In a sense, this is what makes Kane’s 2014-15 campaign so strange and special. No one outside of the ‘Hawks contingent is going to remember that the 26-year-old was on pace for a career year and in a position to win a scoring title. Folks will still remember the cabbie incident of 2012 or P.K. Subban getting fined for diving this season.

Kane’s potential Art Ross season though? Lost in the blink of an eye.

Hockey is a chaotic game. It can shift from dazzling to grotesque and back again in just a few seconds. What happens in the open spaces is just as important as what happens when two men collide along the boards. In this instance, the collision badly injured Kane and cost him a career year.

He hasn’t played since January 24, yet Kane is still tied for No. 7 in overall points with 64. He trails Sidney Crosby by two and league leader John Tavares by six. Kane will eventually fall outside of the top-10 and continue to sink as teams stride towards the end of the year. It’s just a shame that one of casual hockey’s favorite whipping boys didn’t get the chance to truly cement himself as an elite NHL talent.

There’s no question that Kane is an outstanding player. Would anyone list him alongside Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Alex Ovechkin as one of the league’s top offensive forces though? On a Blackhawks team where he’s arguably not even the best player, that’s a tough argument to make. An Art Ross Trophy would have changed Kane’s legacy a bit though, and possibly shifted the way folks from around the NHL view him as a player and person.

Stanley Cup rings and individual awards rarely impact a player’s reputation, which is strange. Crosby and Ovechkin are prime examples. “The Kid” has two Hart Trophies, a pair of Art Ross Trophies, a single Rocket Richard, three Ted Lindsay Awards, a Stanley Cup and a Gold Medal. Yet all anyone wants to talk about is a worn out, tired perception.

Maybe a scoring title wouldn’t change anything for Kane, but it’s still worth remembering the MVP-caliber season he was having before fracturing his collarbone. Even though your brain isn’t wired to do so.

 



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