Kane’s (Still) Got Game

by | Jan 8, 2024

Kane’s (Still) Got Game

by | Jan 8, 2024

What team wouldn’t be better with Patrick Kane playing on it at his best? The question when he signed on with the Detroit Red Wings after the season was underway was whether he would be the old Kane, the one who is pacing at more than a point-a-game clip over a career that has seen him suit up  almost 1200 times.

The question might have come why he would choose a Rust-Belt city like Detroit, a place which is in the middle of a civic rebuild but not known for its glamor nor its stellar weather? A place where the sports car your hockey player salary bought you has to go away for four or five months a year in favor of something more hardy to combat the weather.

The answer is not about lifestyle. It’s about hockey. Kane apparently  saw a team on the ascent, or one that would  show off and complement his skills. Maybe more like “appreciate” his skills, though what team/fan base wouldn’t?

Two questions lurk in the shadows. One, will Kane’s recovery from hip resurfacing surgery continue to allow him to play when the wear and tear of the season gets intense? And two, where will he finish up the season, assuming Detroit can use him as trade bait should they feel like it, or should their season not go quite as well as they hope and the playoffs not happen?

Do the Red Wings have enough to go somewhere in the playoffs? Well, the line Kane finds himself on, with Alex Debrincat on the left side and JT Compher at center, is producing. Kane’s at 14 points, with the other two sitting on 38 and 24, respectively.

The team, meanwhile, is fifth in the Atlantic Division coming into their game late Sunday afternoon with Anaheim, but within a point of fourth-place Tampa Bay. They would get that point as the game went in their favor by a margin of a goal (3-2). The Maple Leafs sit third, with 47 points. It seems weird to put Detroit in the mix with those two teams, given that their failures of late are well known. This is the team which is the very definition of “slow rebuild.”

However, things are starting to show improvement. Lucas Raymond is making the most of his season, offering up 32 points from his first-line right wing position. Debrincat is leading the team. Kane’s point total is barely shy of one per game at fourteen in sixteen games to date.

And here we are back at Kane again, so let’s dwell a little. For background, I’ve remembered for years a game in LA versus the Kings where Kane came off the right wall, did an arc across the top of the zone, and whipped a wrist shot right past the Kings’ netminder. From a distance. It was the most beautiful shot I’ve ever seen. But I don’t remember his overall game that well. Kind of like Ovechkin. You know he has at least one skill he’ll show repeatedly. You might not take notice of all the other things he does so well.

I know that one game does not make a varied sample size of someone’s work, but I’m also thinking that if a guy can play amazing against a cellar-dweller on a Sunday with nobody watching (except thousands of Red Wings fans in red, plus a full complement of Ducks faithful), he’s got game.

Kane’s got game.

In Sunday’s first period, which was marked by two Ducks penalties (plus a third called at the twenty-minute mark), Kane three different times got a puck fed to him on the right dot. Rather than repeatedly hammer one-timers, he took three entirely different types of shots. One was a hard one-timer. Another was a rising wrister. A third was an off-speed one-timer, low. Smart. Multi-dimensional. No wonder he has over 1250 points in his 1196 games. This night produced no points, but five shots to co-lead the team (with Larkin).

Wait. That’s a lot of games. How long can he keep this up? Most news reports that aired when Kane came back had the same opinion: hip resurfacing isn’t used to fix an injury that recurs. Either the surgery worked, or it didn’t. And by now, he would know. He looks like he knows. His ice time is not shrinking. On this night, it was 18:04, amongst the leaders on the Red Wings.

Other tricks he pulled against the Ducks included snagging a rebound as he glided across the slot and whipped a low wrister. He then got his own rebound as he faded backwards trying to get off another shot. That was foiled, but to put it simply, this guy is an event-a-minute player. He’s all over the ice all the time, too, one minute sitting on the right dot and putting slow pucks right on sticks in the slot, another minute lingering back of the  play, then charging up to take a spot on the dot or to scoot along the blueline, giving a different dimension to the power play than it could possibly have without him.

Did he adjust his style to fit in with what the Red Wings do? Apparently not. But neither has the team adjusted for him. They didn’t need to. He just lends an exciting and creative dynamic that other players on the Detroit roster may someday themselves adopt. They’ll have had at least several months, and maybe a season or two, to watch the master do his thing.

And if he leads them, or co-leads them, to playoff success, and in a season or two, Stanley Cup contention, that’s all the better. But no matter what happens, the good people of Detroit are getting nightly affirmation of the wisdom of signing this player. I hope they’re turning out to the arena to see him. If he can put on a show in a no-points effort like he did in Anaheim, imagine what happens when he pots a goal or two.

As for Detroit’s team game, Coach Derek Lalonde said after the game, “Special teams give you momentum . . . . I thought our goaltender was good for us, and five-on-five.” He added, “We went through that stretch, with three recent losses, that were 2-2 in the third [period]. We’ve obviously flipped those games of late, won four of five and three on the road.”

The Red Wings scored a goal late off a skate, a deflection that was reviewed for a kicking motion but allowed to stand. That proved to be the winner.


The Wings will practice in Anaheim Monday morning, then fly home. They are promised to be in Detroit by the time the University of Michigan kicks off their collegiate national championship football game.

The game marked the Ducks’ second “Legacy Night” during this, their thirtieth anniversary season. The Niedermayers, Rob and Scott, JS Giguere, Chris Pronger, and Teemu  Selanne were at center ice before the game for a brief ceremony. Then the Stanley  Cup was brought out, handed off from player to player in the same order as it had been in 2007. Phil Pritichard, the Keeper of the  Cup, shepherded it back to its case afterwards.

I’d like to add a personal thank you to Steve Brown and Alex Gilchrist, Anaheim’s PR guys. They came around with Teemu Selanne bobbleheads for those of us in press row. I was lucky to see much of Selanne’s storied career first hand, and I enjoy reminiscing about his on-ice exploits.

Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the author of Living the Hockey Dream, which has a chapter on Phil Pritchard, and other books.




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