It's never easy to see a beloved player take a body blow to his ego. Older players can often take it in stride, but you never know how the younger ones are going to react. White Sox fans waited nervously this past season to see whether 23-year-old (now 24) second baseman Gordon Beckham would ride the pine for any length of time. And Cubs fans nearly stormed Wrigley after manager Mike Quade sat 20-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro for a couple of games. Now comes the perplexing case of the 22-year-old Patrick Kane, rock star right winger for the Chicago Blackhawks.â†µ
The announcement came down yesterday that head coach Joel Quenneville would move Kaner to the third line going into tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings. In fact, Coach Q made a newsworthy shuffling of all of the team's lines, putting Sharp, Toews and Skille in the first line; Brouwer, Kopecky and Hossa in the second; Stalberg, Bolland and Kane in the third line; and Bickell, Dowell and Pisani in the fourth.â†µ
How will Kaner respond? So far, he's saying all the right things, refusing to make excuses and stating, "I should be playing better. I know that." Naturally, some fans have already been crying foul about Kane's very slow start, wondering all too loudly whether his "flu-like symptoms" of a couple weeks back were the results of an ill-timed or excessive night out.â†µ
But, whether that's the case or not, the good news is Coach Q is making a decisive move to challenge Kane. After all, he can't go much lower than the third line and, one hopes, his team-worst minus-seven rating is eating away at him. In the meantime, the move puts the Blackhawks' depth to the test, with another young player -- the 23-year-old Wisconsin-born Jack Skille -- getting a prime opportunity to prove his mettle.