Another living legend in Blackhawks history may soon be closing the book on his time in Chicago.
Jonathan Toews, who will undoubtedly be inducted into the Hall of Fame someday, is “seriously considering” retirement, according to multiple sources. In a statement on February 19, he said he was dealing with both long-COVID symptoms and Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. He hasn’t suited up since January 28 after missing all of the 2020-21 season because of those illnesses. It isn’t as if he hasn’t given his best shot, either:
“It has been really challenging to play through these symptoms… In the last few weeks, it has reached the point where I had no choice but to step back and concentrate on getting healthy. I am thankful for the patience and support of my teammates, the coaching staff, and the entire Blackhawks organization.”– Jonathan Toews
The Blackhawks have internally made preparations to honor Toews if he did end up retiring at the conclusion of this season.
Toews, affectionately nicknamed “Captain Serious”, came to the Blackhawks via the third overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft. He made his debut at the start of the following season, opting out of his final two years of college eligibility at the University of North Dakota. He was quickly named the youngest captain in NHL history and went on to lead Chicago to Stanley Cup wins in 2010, 2013, and 2015. He was selected for six All-Star games along the way and was on the cover of NHL 11 and NHL 16.
Toews’ potential departure adds to a list that is quickly becoming a headache for head coach Luke Richardson. The Blackhawks now have an even larger hole at the center position. The problem started last summer when general manager Kyle Davidson let Dylan Strome walk in free agency, then traded Kirby Dach for picks. It seemed he quickly plugged the hole by bringing in Max Domi and Jason Dickinson, but Domi was traded at this year’s deadline and Dickinson has battled lingering injuries all season. During the season, Sam Lafferty, who was in the midst of a breakout campaign, was dealt to the Maple Leafs as well. The latest domino to fall at center for the Blackhawks was rookie Cole Guttman, who was having a stellar season proving his worth before being shut down for shoulder surgery earlier this week.
So who’s left? On the first line, that question is answered by Philipp Kurashev. The 23-year-old was thrust into the role after countless player losses. He put up decent numbers early in the season, but since assuming his current role at the trade deadline, he seems to have shied away from the spotlight and has scored only one goal so far in March. Additionally, he boasts only a 44.1% faceoff win percentage. Slated to be a restricted free agent at the end of this season, Kurashev has a lot to prove if he wants to stay on a Chicago team that will undoubtedly have plenty of player turnover.
On the second line is Jason Dickinson, who has also faced similar struggles. In the month of March, he’s put up only three points and has a 47.6% faceoff win percentage. Dickinson is under contract through next season, but his high cap hit and lack of production means the brass in Chicago will hope to trade him after this year unless something vastly changes.
Further down the depth chart, Mackenzie Entwistle holds down the third line. He recently got off of IR from a wrist injury and is on the first year of a cheap two-year contract. He hasn’t shown up much on the stat sheet, but may be a depth piece for the Blackhawks in the future.
While it’s important that the Blackhawks give Jonathan Toews the honor he deserves after his illustrious career, they must plug the hole at one of the most important positions in hockey. The young skaters currently on the roster now have a unique opportunity to prove themselves and take advantage of the opportunities that they’re already being presented with. However, the position remains wide open for Chicago to add a big name or two this offseason.
That’d be ideal, and would change the outlook of the franchise for at least a decade. But at this point, the Blackhawks have similar odds to a bunch of other teams to land the #1 pick. Sure, they’ll probably look at a rookie center, but they should have complete turnover at the positon on every line.
How about Connor Bedard? Hes a center
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