Jonathan Toews Says This Season Has Been a "Grind"

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Jonathan Toews Says This Season Has Been a “Grind”

Chicago Blackhawks

This season has been a challenge for the Chicago Blackhawks and 33-year-old Captain Jonathan Toews has been feeling the brunt of it. After missing all of the 2020-21 season due to Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, Toews was coming into the 2021-22 season hoping to be refreshed, rejuvenated, and back to his old self. So were Blackhawks fans.

Then, through the first 25 games of the season, Toews was held without a goal, playing the fewest minutes per game of his career, and only had nine assists to his name.

For the 2021-22 season, we have seen a different Jonathan Toews than we are used to. He’s no longer the “do everything” pivot for the Blackhawks. He’s still taking the most faceoffs and playing on both the powerplay and penalty-kill, but Toews is averaging a career-low 18:02 minutes per game this season. Even as a rookie, Toews was getting 18:40 minutes per night. There hasn’t been a year since making his NHL debut with the Blackhawks where Toews did not finish the season in first or second in minutes per game among forwards for Chicago. This season, he is fourth behind Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Kirby Dach.

While there was optimism that Toews would be recovered and ready for the full 82-game season, the underlying reality was that we are no longer seeing the Jonathan Toews of old. The physical and mental toll the season is having on him, especially when he was in the midst of a 25-game goal-drought, has been evident. Toews hasn’t been the go-to voice in the media this season like he has been in the past and his on-ice body language showed a frustrated player who was not only not producing like he is used to, but also not winning like he has been used to.

 

The Blackhawks started the season with a 1-9-2 record before firing Jeremy Colliton and replacing him with Derek King. Now at 11-15-4, the Blackhawks have been trending back in the right direction, but it is not looking like they will be able to do enough to get out of the hole they dug themselves into to begin the year. If that’s the case, this will be the fourth-straight season in which Toews and the Blackhawks haven’t earned a postseason berth (“earned” as in not having the league expand the playoffs to 24 teams to accommodate Chicago and Montreal).

Plus, dealing with his own physical and mental hurdles to get back to 100%, Toews is playing again in a season that has been dominated by COVID protocols and health restrictions. Not your typical NHL environment.

There has been some positives, though, as the season has reached the Christmas Holiday break. Toews broke his career-long goalless drought in a win over the Montreal Canadiens, and has three goals and four points in his last five games, increasing his ice-time in each one of those previous five games.

His goal in Montreal literally felt like the monkey coming off the back of the Blackhawks Captain, and could have a floodgates effect on him after getting the first goal of the season finally out of the way.

The Blackhawks are going to need Toews to continue to trend upwards once the season resumes following the Holiday break. With three goals and 13 points in 30 games this season, Toews is trending towards his lowest point-production of his career. But he is winning the highest percentage of faceoffs (59.4%) of his career, while shooting at the lowest percentage (5.7%) of his career, so something has to give eventually this year.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.