What a relief. For a brief moment in time during what has been a very difficult news cycle surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks, the fan base can take a moment to enjoy seeing Jonathan Toews skating again with teammates, laughing, enjoying life, and talking openly about why he had to miss the 2020-21 season.
In a video posted on his Twitter account, Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews spoke for the first time publicly about what he has been dealing with away from hockey for almost a year.
I wasn’t too vocal about the things I went through this year. I appreciate the understanding and support and wanted to share this message on where I’m at. pic.twitter.com/3qgftKki10
— Jonathan Toews (@JonathanToews) June 30, 2021
“They’re calling it Chronic Immune Response Syndrome.” Toews says in the video, diagnosing his previously unknown illness that kept him off the ice this season.
I’m not here to debate medical conditions with you. I’m not a doctor. You’re (probably) not a doctor. And neither of us are Jonathan Toews. If what he has dealt with is Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, then that’s what it is. Full stop.
Here’s a little sample of emails that Blackhawks fans sent me about Toews this season (and these aren’t the worst ones). People need to stop listening to their uncle’s friend, coworker’s sister, etc. pic.twitter.com/6ZQIJn5G2q
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) June 30, 2021
Simply put, don’t be one of these people.
Also, the timing of this announcement is of course suspect. But I, for one, believe that Jonathan Toews is making this decision to share this news on his own terms. I don’t know Toews personally, but he seems to be a big believer in life outside of hockey being bigger than the game itself. I don’t believe he would let himself be used as a prop for the organization during this period of time.
This is where I'm at with this. The investigation and the litigation and the reporting aren't going away anytime soon. There wasn't going to be a "good" time to make this announcement. And it's not as if this stops any of that. https://t.co/Bzp2wJqRGo
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 30, 2021
Being happy about Toews, while still being disgusted and upset with the organization can be separate emotions and can be felt at the same time. I’m feeling that way right now.
Being happy to see Jonathan Toews healthy and back skating with the team can be a completely separate emotion from being disgusted about the #Blackhawks as an organization.
Both can happen at the same time.
— Mario Tirabassi (@Mario_Tirabassi) June 30, 2021
In the meantime, some love:
So good to see you back on the ice, @JonathanToews!!!!
Glad you’re on the mend, glad you took care of yourself. We all can’t wait to see you in action again! 🙌🏻🙌🏻 https://t.co/OnymHgOan3
— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) June 30, 2021
— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) June 30, 2021
ANYBODY ELSE READY TO RUN THROUGH A WALL FOR THE BEST DAMN CAPTAIN IN THE LEAGUE TO RETURN? THIS IS CONTENT YOU LOVE TO SEE AND IM READY FOR 2021-22 WITH TOEWS BACK https://t.co/XqahPWEymI
— COM Shaggy (@COM__Shaggy) June 30, 2021
This is really uplifting to see. https://t.co/RNhUJCsT9K
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 30, 2021
Also, before I move on, did anyone else notice this or am I just crazy enough to care?
Did anyone else notice in the @JonathanToews video, that he can be seen wearing his usual @BauerHockey 4500 helmet & then at a different point in the video, wearing a @CCMHockey Tacks helmet & other CCM gear? Is he no longer with Bauer? This is the most important question I have pic.twitter.com/NELGDsnmPC
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) June 30, 2021
I’ll need answers.
With Toews’s return all but official for the 2021-22 season, the Blackhawk can move forward this offseason with more clarity on what their roster may look like for the upcoming season. The team had been operating under the assumption that Toews would be back for next season, now with it pretty much confirmed from the man himself, Chicago work with the cap space numbers and personnel with Toews on the roster.
As far as the salary cap goes, it will remain flat for next season and stay at $81.5M. With Toews part of the active roster and a slew of unrestricted and restricted free agents to deal with, the Blackhawks should have no problems keeping their cap space (roughly $5-6M depending on their in-house moves) heading into the free agency period. There’s also the fact that Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw will be placed on LTIR once the season begins in October, which will allow the Blackhawks move flexibility once the season begins. Also take into account that Chicago will lose at least one current contract on their books in the Seattle Expansion Draft, with the possibility that it might end up being Calvin de Haan’s $4.55M deal.
There’s a big IF in the room when talking about Toews’ return. IF he’s not the Jonathan Toews that we know him as on the ice, what does his role become? IF he cannot be the top center for the team and be effective on the powerplay and penalty-kill, like he has been for his entire career in Chicago, then what?
If he can do all those things, great, no sweat.
If he cannot, is Kirby Dach ready to be the No. 1 guy down the middle? We couldn’t get a great reading on Dach’s development in year two of his career because of injuries keeping him off the ice and limiting his function. With the addition of Lukas Reichel and Henrik Borgström, and the likely re-signing of Pius Suter, Chicago has talent at the center position, but none of them figure to be the top-guy that Toews has been and maybe still can be. If he’s not, then there could be problems.
All this still has time to play out over the course of the summer. For now, for today, I’m happy that Toews is healthy and is back on the ice with the Blackhawks again.