I was reading Ryan Lambert’s article today about how the Oilers pretty much have to run Leon Draisaitl‘s and Connor McDavid‘s ice-time tank to the “E” every night, and began thinking about how the Hawks will manage the same thing this season.
The Hawks aren’t a deep team, though they’re deeper than the Oilers even with Drais-Cube and McJesus. If the Hawks are going to do anything this year that you might remember, they’re going to do it on the backs of Kane, Toews, and DeBrincat doing remarkable things. So how much should Jeremy Colliton toss them over the boards? We know the answer is a lot, but finding the right amount is going to be tricky.
As we know last year, Patrick Kane only trailed Draisaitl and McDavid in time last season. He had a jump of a full two minutes per game from the previous season, breaking over 22:00 per game. That was also the highest of his career, at age 30, and even though his insane workout regimen has been well documented, it seemed less than ideal.
And that was bared out as the season went along. Kane went for 16 points in his last 18 games, which pretty much every other player on the planet save a handful would consider the best streak of their lives. But it doesn’t look as good when you consider that in the previous 38 games Kane went for 65 points (seriously). And sure, there’s some variance in there with power play scoring and shooting-percentage and such. But anyone who watched the Hawks in March and April last year (or would admit to it and then accept the concerned looks from their friends that would follow) knows that Kane looked a half-step slower in the season’s final throes. And why wouldn’t he?
Now maybe after a season of doing it, Kane is more prepared to take on 22 minutes per night, and wouldn’t you know he played 21:30 in the season opener. Still, 22 minutes a night for a winger seems a tad high, though we’re likely to get it again as this Alex Nylander thing blows up in their faces down the road. At least until my guy Philip Kurashev comes to save the day!
Toews also saw a big jump in his minutes last year, and also a career-high, clocking in at a flat 21:00. The Hawks are probably even thinner at center this year than they were last, though perhaps Ryan Carpenter is a push to Artem Anisimov depending on how you look at it. This would be less of a problem if Kirby Dach is kept around, but we’ve had that talk. How much do you want to push Toews at 31? Toews also tailed off a bit last season toward the end, though not as sharply. He had 15 points in the last 18 games where he’d gone 45 in 38 before.
Perhaps it’s DeBrincat who might see the real push in time this year? Top Cat only averaged a shade under 18 minutes a night last year. Now it would be easy to point out he doesn’t kill penalties and needs to be sheltered in shifts, but you could say the same things about Kane. Perhaps Top Cat doesn’t create as much offensively as Kane does, he’s more of a finisher, but he’s also not bereft of inspiration for his teammates either. He’s never been asked to do it much, always installed as the finisher on a line or power play. But it wouldn’t hurt to see if he can do more when shifted occasionally with some plugs, because it’s in his locker.
It might also help if Brandon Saad could author some streaks to warrant pushing 20 minutes a night, but that ship might have sailed. Same goes from Dylan Strome, and that ship is very much still in port.
Needless to say, the Hawks need these guys on the ice as much as possible, without cracking 22 or really even going over 21 minutes a night if they want Daydream Nation to still have anything in the tank come spring. The hope is that Strome and Top Cat make themselves available and necessary for 19-20 minutes per night as well. If that happens, the Hawks might actually do something. If they have to lean on the plus-30 Kane and Toews over 21 minutes a night again, they’re probably in that spot with the upstream and no paddles thing.