Patrick Kane chuckled when he heard the number, smiled then shook his head. Was he going to take the bait? He clearly wanted to. Did he really think there are at least 34 better players than him in the NHL, as The Athletic’s player tiers claimed? Perhaps as many as 41?
“Obviously, I’d like to be higher,” he said. “I don’t know, I think I’m better than that.”
Kane has been such a fixture among the world’s elite for so long that it becomes easy to take him for granted. He’s undoubtedly the best and most accomplished U.S.-born player the game’s ever seen, though Auston Matthews will be coming for that title in the years to come. He might already be the greatest player in Blackhawks history, with all due respect to Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, whose numbers still dwarf Kane’s.
And for the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately crowd that’s long moved past the three championships, the Hart Trophy, the Conn Smythe and the Calder, only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have more points over the last four seasons than Kane, whose points-per-game total is identical to Matthews’ 1.24 in that span. Kane has played the last four seasons at a 101-point pace over an 82-game schedule.
This is still one of the world’s truly elite offensive weapons. Seemingly every skilled player that’s come into the league over the last decade reveres him, and grew up watching him and idolizing him and mimicking him on the ice, in the street, in the basement. Anecdotally, and as documented in player polls year after year, it’s clear that few rival Kane in the eyes of his peers.
“He’s as good as they get,” said new teammate Jack Johnson, who’s known Kane and played alongside him for Team USA dating back to their teen years.
So 35th? As low as 42nd? Stuck in something called Tier 3B? (Players weren’t ranked within each tier.) Really? Even factoring in the one-way nature of his game, forty-second?
Maybe it’s as simple as out of sight, out of mind. After all, when was the last time Kane truly was in the spotlight?