One of the leading storylines this season will be the overall health and capabilities of Jonathan Toews, who missed the entire 2020-21 season with an illness. With that in mind, and with training camp set to open later this week, this bit of information from Mark Lazerus is especially welcomed news.
I know that feeds into the "best shape of my life!" camp cliché, but it's particularly important with Toews. We have no idea how his body will react to playing again. I have to think NBA-style load management will (and should) be a strong consideration. But so far, so good.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) September 20, 2021
According to Lazerus, all arrows are pointing up for Toews, as he reportedly looks healthy and ready to go through informal workouts leading up to camp. It’s encouraging that Toews is looking good here in September, but how he will look — and more importantly, feel — when we get into the season’s later months is the real question.
As Mario discussed in his training camp position battles story on Saturday, Toews’s absence on the top line was sorely missed last season, but there’s no guarantee that he will reclaim his former role this season.
After missing all of last season due to an illness, Toews is now back with the club ahead of this season at the age of 33. In his absence last year, the top-line center spot was a gigantic question mark. Players like Dylan Strome, Pius Suter, Philipp Kurashev, and even David Kämpf were among the players that rotated through. But while Suter started to fit into the role late last year, he’s no longer with the team (ditto Kämpf). One would love to think that upon his return, Toews slots right back into that top-line center spot so things can go back to the way they used to be … But that may not be the case. It might not even be close.
We still don’t know exactly where Toews is with regard to his health. He is saying all the right things, and we have seen him return to the ice with the Blackhawks this summer, but even when things are back to 100%, we won’t know how his body will hold up. Optimistically, if Toews can play upwards of 70-75+ games this season, that’s all the better. But he may not be able to be the Toews of old, playing in all situations and playing 20+ minutes a night.
In his Tweet, Lazerus suggested that the Blackhawks would be wise to give Jonathan Toews the NBA load management treatment this season to help ensure that the 33-year-old center is looking as good as he does now, this spring (and hopefully summer). And I don’t disagree. That type of load management would open the door for Kirby Dach to spend plenty of time in the top center spot this season, a place that he likely would have spent much of last season if not for the broken wrist that limited him to 18 games. In reality, this is probably the likeliest strategy for Jeremy Colliton, mixing Toews and Dach in the center spot on the top line throughout the season.
Either way, it just feels good to see that Toews is in a good place right now after life without him proved to be a significant challenge for the Blackhawks last season.
With training camp opening this week, you should do yourself a favor and check out Mario’s entire conversation on the potential top-line center battle in camp.
Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp Position Battles: Top-Line Centerhttps://t.co/NCN4XpuOF8
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) September 18, 2021