Patrick Kane is dominating the NHL, but his career splits suggest he’s following his typical pattern. Can he maintain his torrid pace?
The on-ice result in 2015-16 has been the antithesis of Patrick Kane’s tumultuous off-season. The Chicago Blackhawks star looks like he’ll run away with the league scoring crown this year. He broke the franchise record Sunday by extending his points streak to 22 games, and the way he did it summed up how rosily things have gone. Kane gloved the puck out of his zone and onto the stick of linemate Artemi Panarin, who scored on an empty Winnipeg Jets net from just past center ice.
Kane would wrap up the Art Ross for most points and probably the Hart Trophy as league MVP if the NHL season ended today. His 42 points are seven more than the next-closest player. Having amassed that total in 27 games, Kane is on pace for 128 points, which would be the highest total of the ‘New NHL’ era and the most since Mario Lemieux piled up 161 in 1995-96. Kane has the best hands in the NHL. He and perhaps Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson are the most dominant players in the game with the puck on their sticks. Kane was already on a Hall of Fame trajectory, but 2015-16 looks like the year he reaches a new stratosphere and delivers on the sky-high ceiling he displayed while racking up points as a London Knight in 2006-07.
What we shouldn’t lose in the Kane hoopla, however, is that he’s actually done something like this several times before. In 2013-14, by the end of December, he had 53 points in 42 games. Kane got 16 points in his next 27 games before a March injury ended his regular season. In 2008-09 he had 41 points after 34 games through the end of December and finished with 29 in his final 46 games. Kane has absolutely wowed us so far, but he’s actually producing perfectly in line with his career splits. Check ’em out:
October: 92 GP, 38 G, 56 A, 94 PTS, 1.02 points per game
November: 107 GP, 48 G, 79 A, 127 PTS, 1.19 points per game
December: 86 GP, 33 G, 66 A, 99 PTS, 1.15 points per game
October to December: 1.12 points per game
January: 99 GP, 23 G, 53 A, 76 PTS, 0.77 points per game
February: 86 GP, 32 G, 45 A, 77 PTS, 0.90 points per game
March: 95 GP, 32 G, 54 A, 86 PTS, 0.91 points per game
April: 38 GP, 15 G, 25 A, 40 PTS, 1.05 points per game
January to April: 0.88 points per game
Kane is a classic first-half player according to his splits. If we pro-rate his production to 82 games, he scores at a 92-point clip in the first three months of a season and a 72-point clip in the New Year. The career trend suggests he’ll regress again. Will that put his scoring crown in jeopardy?
Let’s say Kane scores at his lifetime December mark of 1.15(11267…etc.) for Chicago’s 12 remaining December games. That would get him to 56 by the New Year. If we apply his second-half-swoon rate of 0.88 to his remaining 43 contests, that’s 38 more points. Add it up and Kane finishes with 94 in an 82-game campaign. It would be his best full-season total and would top last season’s winning total by seven, as Jamie Benn had 87.
Speaking of Benn, though, could he catch Kane’s hypothetical mark by April? Benn would need 60 points in his next 55 games to hit 95. It’s entirely possible considering Benn finished 2014-15 with 62 in his final 55 games.
On the other hand, maybe we’re simply seeing Kane hit his pinnacle. His shooting percentage is high, but he’s always posted high shooting percentages, so “puck luck” wouldn’t characterize what he’s accomplished in 2015-16. Kane might be peaking to the point that his splits don’t matter that much anymore. He had 24 points in 24 games in the New Year last season before breaking his collarbone and sitting out until the playoffs. He averages the most points per game of any NHLer in the past two seasons combined. So while Kane should cool off at least a bit, it will still take a lot to catch him, provided he stays healthy, which he hasn’t done in the second half since 2012-13.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin