Hearing that Derrick Rose was likely going to be out for the remainder of the season with another meniscus surgery on deck after watching Patrick Kane go down with an injury that will keep him sidelined a while was quite the gut punch for Chicago sports fans.
The Bulls losing Rose and the Blackhawks losing Kane means different things for different folks.
Losing Rose’s upside is what hurts the most in that situation. Let’s face it, he wasn’t the MVP caliber player he was before the injuries, but Rose showed flashes of brilliance and looked as if his health had turned the corner, at minimum. He played in 19 straight and 30 of 31 before last night’s announcement.
Even then, his field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and attempted free throws per game had taken significant dips, while his assist rate (30.1 percent) is middling, ranking 13th among point guards averaging 25 minutes per game. It simply wasn’t high enough for an inconsistent offensive player with diminished skills and talented scorers around him.
It’s hard to comprehend, especially at this stage of sports mourning, but the Bulls could still play interesting, meaningful ball down the stretch as they run the offense through All-Star Pau Gasol on the block and in pick-and-roll situations.
Unfortunately, there is a glass ceiling there, in the form of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With that bit of perspective, losing Patrick Kane is more of a burden on the Blackhawks than losing Rose is for the Bulls.
Sometimes, I feel as if Kane has been underrated in Chicago. And I’m convinced it has to do with poor decisions he made in his younger years, whether it be the drinking escapade in Madison, Wis., or the incident with a Buffalo cab driver, or one of several other incidents.
Kane has kept his nose clean in recent years, and it probably isn’t a coincidence that his play on ice has improved significantly.
This season looked like it was going to represent Kane’s coming out party. He was tied for the league lead in points, scoring 64 in 61 games. His 27 goals put him in the league’s top 10. Of those goals, 21 came at even-strength, which put him in the top five. Tack on six power-play goals and five game-winners and Kane was having his best goal scoring year of his career. Lest we forget about his vastly improved defensive skills, to go along with his elite scoring ability.
For the second straight year, injury will keep Kane from reaching the 30-goal milestone, which has been a bug-a-boo for some people who watch and analyze the team and Kane’s performance.
Replacing Kane’s production on ice is as difficult as finding a replacement for the artistry he brought to the game on a nightly basis.
Yes, the Blackhawks still have Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. But make no mistake, Kane was the straw that stirred the drink this season. His presence on the second line really brought out the best in Brad Richards, fighting on his last legs, and Kris Versteeg, who didn’t really have a home on a line until he settled in with Kane and Richards.
The good news is Kane could be back in time for a playoff run.
The bad news is it’s likely the Blackhawks would have to win a series against the Blues (with St. Louis having home-ice advantage) before Kane is at full-strength — whatever that might be.
Don’t get me wrong. Losing both is a significant blow to each team’s respective title hopes. But losing Kane during the best year of his career stings just a little bit more.