Today Jonathan Toews celebrates his 29th birthday. It comes with many accomplishments, but the Chicago Blackhawks’ Captain believes he still has much work to do.
We could go on and on about the accomplishments of the Captain of the Chicago Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews has won two gold medals, one Selke Trophy, one Conn Smythe Trophy, and three Stanley Cups. And all this before his 30th birthday.
But this particular birthday is a little bittersweet. You see, Toews has hit a bit of a lull on his road to success. This is the second year in a row he’s celebrating his birthday during the postseason, instead of being in the midst of a playoff run. There’s no Selke’s or Conn Smythe’s on the horizon, and the NHL isn’t participating in the Olympics anymore.
Yes, things have changed a little recently for this young man. For example, he no longer considers himself young. It’s interesting to listen to Toews during his postseason exit interview. He speaks of the game changing over the past few years. “I’ve always been one of those type of players that likes to play heavy and protect the puck down low in the corners. It seems that the speed in my game that I used to have in my younger years, I’ve got to get back to playing more puck possession, a little more speed on the rush.”
It’s true that Toews’ numbers have been down over the last two seasons. Both this year and last year, he’s finished with 58 points, compared to 66 and 68 points in the two previous seasons. His possession numbers, or Corsi percentage, has been right around 52% these past two seasons, versus 56.8% and 59.8% the previous two years.
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It certainly doesn’t help that Toews used to center a dynamic first line alongside Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa. Since Saad’s trade, Toews hasn’t had a whole lot of consistency in his linemates. Hossa has moved down to the third line, and Toews has had to work with a number of youngsters, including Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartmann, and Vinnie Hinostroza. He has found some success on the right side in the form of Richard Panik. He, Panik, and Schmaltz were on a roll as a trio in February, but unfortunately this didn’t carry over into the playoffs.
But Toews isn’t using any of this, or the fact that he may have been nursing an injury, as an excuse. Instead, he speaks of finding his game, and bringing his experience to help his wingers elevate their games. Besides revamping his offseason training to incorporate more skill and speed, he claims he will be soul-searching over the summer, in order to make the best of these years right now for him and his team.
It’s when the going gets tough that we find out the heart of a true champion. This is one of those times, and I believe Toews is the kind of captain, teammate, and individual with the fortitude to work through his struggles. Happy Birthday, Jonny! And here’s to much more success in your future and with the Chicago Blackhawks!