With the Chicago Blackhawks’ season in the books, it’s time to look back at various team members and issue them grades for 2016-17
Chicago Blackhawks fans would’ve hoped for posts like this to not start appearing until June. Alas, that’s not the position we at Blackhawk Up find ourselves in after the Blackhawks’ surprising first-round postseason exit.
With the year complete for the men in the Indian Head, it’s time for us to grade out each member of the roster (including the head coach). We’re going to start today with the captain, Jonathan Toews.
2016-17 regular-season statistics: 72 games, 21 goals, 37 assists, 58 points, plus-7 rating, 52.4 Corsi-for (even strength)
2016-17 postseason statistics: 4 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, minus-5 rating, 55.8 Corsi-for (even strength)
For Toews this season, the positives start with his point binge once the calendar turned from 2016 to 2017. After posting four multi-point games from Oct. 12 to Dec. 31, Toews upped that number to nine for the remainder of the regular season, capped by a three-goal, five-point output against Minnesota on Feb. 21.
As Toews got hot, so did the Blackhawks. It made for a perfect setup for Chicago, and probably wound up contributing to the false sense of security fans carried into the postseason.
Ultimately, a lot of his statistics look OK at first glance, but they lose their sheen upon further inspection. Since this is the positives section, however, we’ll look at them in a positive light first.
Toews won 54.9 percent of his faceoffs in the regular season and upped that success rate to 55.6 in the postseason, when pretty much no one else was winning at the dot for Chicago. He also dropped his penalty minutes from 62 in the 2015-16 regular season to just 35 this campaign.
The captain was certainly on the ice quite a bit for his team as well, averaging 20:09 minutes during the regular season — the first time he went over 20 minutes since 2013-14. It led to him firing 199 shots on net, his highest total since a 233-shot regular season in 2010-11.
Toews also seemed to help the confidence of some of Chicago’s newer faces. Richard Panik got off to a hot start this season even while Toews struggled, but when the two played together, Panik just seemed to be oozing with confidence. You have to attribute some of that to him lining up alongside a talent like Toews.
Similarly, Nick Schmaltz really found his game alongside Toews as the regular season wound down. After a rough first run in the NHL, Schmaltz returned from an AHL stint and looked far better. While Schmaltz is plenty talented in his own right, lining up alongside a guy like Toews seems to bring out some of the best in the youngster, adding to his confidence.
If we just start with “the postseason” in the negatives, we really aren’t going to get anywhere. Very few Blackhawks could be classified as playing well in this year’s playoffs.
Da Windy City
Toews’ play was far from the worst of the squad, but as the captain, the onus is on him to spur his team to at least one victory. Sure, the Predators overmatched the Blackhawks in some key areas, and no amount of spurring can save that in most instances. But in spots where the team was within striking distance and needed a kick, Toews wasn’t there to offer it, as in years past.
Now, back to the regular season. I mentioned before a closer look at some of Toews’ stats wipes off the sheen from the positives section. Let’s start with his faceoff success in the regular season. While 54.9 percent is a solid number, it’s a good bit off his 56.8 career mark — as well as the worst mark of his pro career since his sophomore season (54.7).
Toews was shooting the puck more this season than in others, but his shooting percentage dipped precipitously. The 10.6 mark he posted was the worst of his career, and well below his 14.6 percent average. Some of this could be bad luck, but there were plenty of times this season when we saw Toews taking lower-percentage shots that were easier for opposing goalies to save.
Toews also posted an even split on giveaways and takeaways, 37-37. That too was the worst mark of his career, with his previous worst split being 45 takeaways to 34 giveaways. His even-strength goal total of 15 also tied a career low, set in his sophomore season.
His possession numbers also continued to be middling in the regular season. Toews’ 52.4 Corsi-for at even strength was slightly better than last season’s 52.2, but still well off his career 56.1 mark.
Lastly, Toews’ point share — measuring the estimated number of points a player contributed in a season — checked in at 6.3. That marked a career low, with his 4.7 offensive point share the lowest of his career and 1.6 defensive point sharing tying a career low from his first NHL season.
Toews getting hot mid-season was a key reason the Blackhawks won the Central Division and Western Conference titles (even if it didn’t wind up meaning anything). That being said, we expect a lot more out of Toews, and he didn’t bring it in many ways this season.
This may be an issue of Toews’ heavy games total, plus his various injuries, catching up to him. Toews is just 29, but he’s behind the 8-ball when it comes to games played and staying healthy at the NHL and international levels.
Toews has said he’s going to change the way he trains this offseason to try and make him a quicker player who plays less of a heavy game. Will that push up numbers we’ve seen sag the last two seasons? That remains to be seen.