Player Outlook: Needless to say, Jonathan Toews has been experiencing some intense criticism from fans and other bloggers the past couple of seasons. HIs statistics have dropped off, especially in the scoring category when compared to his earlier days in the league. The intangibles are still there though; there are very few people in the entire NHL that are more respected than Toews. He is still considered one of the faces of the franchise, and the captain of THREE Stanley Cup winning teams. Toews has earned every distinction, but fans are starting to want more out of the captain. Part of that reason is because of his contract.
Following the end of the 2014 season, Toews and teammate Patrick Kane signed identical eight-year, $84 million contracts. Kane has since lived up to being one of the highest paid players in the league, winning the Hart trophy and providing an offensive force. Toews on the other hand, has started to slip. As recently as the 2013-14 season, Toews was averaging close to a point-per-game. Fast forward to this year however, and Toews barely scored over 50 points in 74 games. Following three straight seasons of 28 goals, over the last two years, Toews scored 21 and 20, respectively. He’s still putting up solid numbers, but they are nothing compared to what he used to do, and certainly not for someone with that contract. But how much of that is due to Toews himself?
Why There Is Hope: Toews was at his absolute best when he had a stable line to work with. That has been missing the past couple of seasons, looming largely after the Blackhawks traded away Brandon Saad following the 2015 Stanley Cup championship winning season. Add in the fact that Marian Hossa had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2015-16, and it’s just a recipe for disaster.
However, as mentioned before, Saad is a good bet to return to his previous ways and once Coach Quenneville finds a permanent replacement for Hossa (Vinnie Hinostroza anyone?) Toews will rebound. He still has great possession numbers, and the rest of the underlying statistics are there. It’s just been some bad luck. Not to mention that Toews is going to be rejuvenated after missing the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season.
Causes for Concern: Look, Toews has all the intangibles. He’s still a respected leader, he’s still far and away the best choice to be captain for the Blackhawks, but his decrease in scoring is highly alarming. Going from nearly a point-per-game pace as recently as 2014 to just barely getting over 50 this season is horrifying. Add in the fact that Toews has a cap hit of $10.5 million and fans are going to be demanding that he scores like he did in the past.
General manager Stan Bowman attempted to revitalize Toews by reacquiring Saad, albeit at the cost of Artemi Panarin, but that didn’t pan out as planned, at least for this season. Toews’ recent track record suggests that he will continue to regress, and relying on his past isn’t cutting it anymore. Toews needs to put up real numbers, or the fans are going to keep howling.
Final Thoughts: Toews isn’t going anywhere and he is going to be the captain of the Blackhawks for the foreseeable future. The “fans” that were screaming for him to be traded can just stop there. Unfortunately, Toews is someone that feels every bit of the pressure that is put on the team. If his scoring doesn’t go back to the 2014 season, there’s a good chance he will just explode, and not in a good way.
Toews has a legitimate chance to return though, as the return of Saad and a permanent right-wing member will help him immensely. It’s not unheard of either for a star player to utterly rebound after one season. Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings utterly stunk last season, scoring 52 points coincidentally. He rebounded this year to score over 90. He he can do it, why can’t Toews?