With opening night just two months away, we’re kicking off Blackhawk Up’s annual projections of key Blackhawks players’ goals, assists and points next season based on three-year trends, career averages and potential linemates.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will bounce back from disappointing 2016-17 season
No one was more incensed with the Chicago Blackhawks’ summary dismissal from the 2017 playoffs than captain Jonathan Toews. Well, maybe ‘Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, who appeared on the verge of a brain aneurysm during the team’s final media event. Still, Toews was first to acknowledge his inconsistent play last season, stating he would emphasize speed and skill conditioning this summer to improve both puck possession and point production in the 2017-18 season.
Slow start, big finish
And Toews really did get off to a sluggish start last season, posting just seven goals and 14 assists over his first 36 games, during which he centered a constantly revolving set of wingers and suffered a back injury that kept him sidelined for nine games from Nov. 25 to Dec. 11.
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But in mid-January, Tazer clicked with wingers Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik, and led the ‘Hawks to the top of the Western Conference with 14 goals and 23 assists in his last 36 regular season games.
Last three regular season statistics:
- 2014-15: 81 games, 28 goals, 38 assists, 66 points, plus-30 rating.
- 2015-16: 80 games, 28 goals, 30 assists, 58 points, plus-16 rating.
- 2016-17: 72 games, 21 goals, 37 assists, 58 points, plus-7 rating.
Career Average (10 years): 72 games, 27 goals, 35 assists, 62 points, plus-19 rating.
- Brandon Saad, Panik — Probable
- Schmaltz, Patrick Kane, Ryan Hartman — Possible
- Patrick Sharp, John Hayden — Outside shot.
Projection: 28 goals, 38 assists, 66 points
If Toews can stay healthy and develop some synergy with a stable line combination of high-end wingers like Saad and Panik, he could easily surpass his career averages and take the ‘Hawks deep into the playoffs.
Improving his puck possession numbers would go a long way towards reaching those milestones — Toews’ even strength 51.64 percent Corsi-for in 2016-17 is six percentage points below his Corsi-for average from 2007-08 to 2014-15. He would also do well to increase his career-low 10.6 shooting percentage from last year.
Writer prediction: Over
Now mired deep in the doldrums of August (it’s a stifling 92 degrees here in Seattle), I’m finding solace watching the “Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup 2015 Champions” Blu-ray disc and reveling in the glory of Toews reunited with Saad again on the top line wreaking havoc in the West. It’s a nice way to dream away these last few empty weeks before they finally drop the puck for real.