Top Shelf: Kane's rededication big for Blackhawks

Back in early May, shortly after the Chicago Blackhawks season came to a disappointing end in the first round of the playoffs, winger Patrick Kane was the recipient of some unwanted publicity.

These days, however, a wiser Kane is sticking to making headlines for his play on the ice, which has had a great deal to do with Chicago's amazing start to the season.

The bad press came via, which on May 7 ran a story bearing the headline "Patrick Kane's Offseason Drinking Regimen Is Off To A Great Start."

The original piece featured several photos of Kane enjoying Cinco de Mayo a little too much in Madison, Wis., and another story that included eyewitness accounts of Kane's public display of drunkenness followed a few days later.

Unfortunately for Kane, the Internet is indeed written in ink and both stories can still be found here:

Making matters worse, Kane already had a reputation for hard partying before the initial Deadspin story was released, thanks to a run-in with a cab driver in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., back in August 2009. That time, Kane and his cousin were arrested for allegedly roughing up a cabbie when they refused to pay their fare. Although felony charges were originally on the docket, the men were able to get past the fracas after pleading guilty to non-criminal disorderly conduct charges.

In light of that previous incident, things looked bad for Kane when the Madison story was unleashed on the public. A humbled Kane eventually addressed his Madison mistake at the Chicago Blackhawks convention in late July.

"We all saw the photos," Kane said. "They're pretty embarrassing."

Although Kane stopped short of admitting he had a drinking problem, he did say at the July event that "I don't really want to put myself in that position again.

Adding to the embarrassment was the fact that Kane -- the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 draft -- was coming off his worst season as an NHLer. He posted a career-low 66 points over 82 games in 2011-12 and had four assists during Chicago's six-game playoff loss to Phoenix.

For Kane, it seems the best way to avoid unwanted publicity has been to rededicate himself to his sport, and, boy, is it ever working.

Kane has been arguably the best player on a team that's been head and shoulders above the rest of the league. He leads the Blackhawks in both goals (10) and assists (14) and is a big reason Chicago has set an NHL record by going 19 games (16-0-3) into a season without a regulation loss.

With Kane playing his best hockey in a long time, the sky's the limit for the Blackhawks and their star-studded lineup. The club also boasts the likes of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith, and that mix of superstars has Chicago playing better than it has since winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup in decades back in 2010.

Even without the mess he made for himself in Madison, Kane would have been under tremendous pressure to produce this season. It's possible the Deadspin story actually helped him get back on track as the embarrassing predicament served as fuel to prove the doubters wrong.

You won't hear the 24-year-old Kane talk about the maturity he's gained in light of last year's antics, but that hasn't stopped others from noticing.

"He's still a fun guy to be around, but you can just tell that there is a sort of grownup-ness about him that I think is going to bode well," Blackhawks television analyst Ed Olczyk recently told

Although he may not want to make a big deal out of his perceived transformation, Kane recently spoke to about the tough lessons he's learned. The most important one is the realization that in the digital age it's best to assume somebody is watching, as often is the case.

"It's a different era with social media, camera phones, everything," Kane said. "This is the first time someone has really gone through all of that and you don't really have anyone to reflect on or anyone to give you advice. It's something you have to learn as you go, but I'm trying my best."

In a league that is seemingly stocked with introverts, Kane is someone who is comfortable in the spotlight. That desire may have gotten him into trouble last year, but the same thing is driving his stark turnaround in 2013.

Who knows? If things keep going the right way, maybe the next time Kane shows up on Deadspin for drinking, the picture will show him taking a swig out of Lord Stanley's chalice rather than a can of Natty Light.