Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews made waves on March 18 when he spoke with Mark Lazerus of Athleticism, following the trade of Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He made some discouraging statements about how he felt about his future with the Blackhawks and the team itself. If you missed it, I covered his comments in the first episode of this series.
Hagel’s trade came three days before the NHL trade deadline, March 21. Toews decided to give more details on his previous comments when the trade deadline officially passed. These comments were more descriptive than the ones he gave Lazerus, and they deserve credit. So, here is another analysis of his last remarks.
Toews unhappy with departure of ‘key elements’
Speaking with Lazerus, Toews made it clear that losing Hagel was “disheartening.” The Blackhawks parted ways with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and center Ryan Carpenter at the trade deadline three days later. When Toews was asked to reflect on careers, he replied, “The direction we’re heading in as a franchise has become pretty clear and I’m not going to lie, it was disheartening to see a few good friends go. , no matter what is to come in the future. I think this group has been through a lot this year on and off the ice.
“Obviously life has been weird, it’s been tough for a lot of people. There’s been a lot of challenges that these guys have overcome as a group and when you kind of cultivate that chemistry and that friendship and that connection with your teammates, I think you want to continue to take advantage of that, so it’s definitely a little disheartening to see some key parts of our roster and squad getting traded.
The two words that come to mind are “key elements”. Since 2017, nothing in the roster has been the same, except for the constants that are Toews and Patrick Kane. Everyone else around them has been interchangeable, so it’s only natural to automatically name Kane and Toews as the main players in the equation.
Related: Blackhawks Hagel Trade signals start of rebuilding
Hearing Toews mention Hagel, Fleury, and Carpenter as essential parts was interesting, and I don’t think he’s wrong. Although Hagel was with the Blackhawks less than three seasons, he became a big part of the locker room. He was someone Seth Jones called a “piece of identity”. Fleury is beloved in the league and many Blackhawks players have described him as one of the best teammates they have had in their careers. He had a huge impact, only being in Chicago for half the season.
Carpenter was with Chicago for three years. He was a consistent leader and played the right way in his role as a fourth line center. They are certainly not easy parts to lose, although it makes sense for the big picture of the rebuild. However, the “key pieces” stand out because where does Toews think he stands when it comes to the important pieces of the team? It almost feels like a diversion by taking that notion out of itself, which brings me to the next quote.
Toews’ uncertainty goes up a notch
In a previous conversation with Lazerus, Toews mentioned uncertainties about his future with the Blackhawks when asked if he would consider waiving his no-move clause in his contract to go to another team. . While his answer seemed conclusive in some ways, it was also vague and ended with “we’ll see.”
In the last interview, he provided other details that clarified his position. He was again asked if the rebuilding schedule made him question his future with the Blackhawks. He replied, “I wouldn’t say it makes me doubt so much that for a very long time it never occurred to me to leave Chicago, and in that case you can’t help but imagine you and what it’s like ‘I would love to play for another team and what that experience would bring. It comes to mind obviously, but again, Chicago is my home, I love the Blackhawks, I love the organization, it’s been my family for a long time and I don’t put the cart before the horse or get ahead of me in any way” (from “What’s Important to the Blackhawks by Jonathan Toews for the rest of his playing career?” The AthleticNHL03/23/2022).
Toews’ new response is similar to the previous one he gave to Lazerus when he mentioned that Chicago is his home and that he loves the Blackhawks. The stark difference in this quote is that he imagines himself playing with another team, which seems to be the most telling quote to date. His last response was more open. Now he is actively implying that he sees no future here. He also said he didn’t want to put the cart in front of the horse, but it appears to be.
Although he still dances around the subject, he looks more descriptive and confident. Moreover, the more he talks, the more decided he seems. When he speaks with the media, he has always been a player who responds to interviews in a very neutral way. He doesn’t say more or less than necessary, and this seems to be the best glimpse he’s given fans in a while regarding his future. It doesn’t look like an open question anymore. It sounds like a flat statement.
The Dilemma of the Toews Captaincy
Toews’ captaincy is something he has held close to his heart throughout his career. The role fits him like a glove and he has always been considered one of the best captains in the league. He rarely had a bad thing to say about being a leader and accepted it wholeheartedly, so his final comments about it were perplexing.
We asked Toews if he’s enjoying captaining the Blackhawks right now? He said: “There’s no doubt that some days you want it to be easy and you just want to say, ‘Screw it, focus on your own thing’, it’s just a lot lighter and a lot less responsibility in some ways, but at the same time, I’ve been given so much for my teammates, the organization, and the fans, and everyone has given me so much credit over the years for our success just because I have a ‘C’ on my jersey, so I think when you’re in that position, a lot of responsibility comes with it, but you’re also given a lot of it, so I think that’s how I see it and it’s all part of the learning process and you can’t turn away from it.” (from ‘What’s Important to Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews for the Rest of His Playing Career?’, The AthleticNHL03/23/2022).
This quote seems to come from an exhausted man.
Toews captained the Blackhawks for 14 seasons. It seems natural for things to get stale when you’ve been doing something for a while. The problem is, the Blackhawks aren’t a team that can afford that kind of apathy right now. He has the right to feel what he feels. He is a Hall of Fame player who gave his heart and soul to the city of Chicago. No one can take that away from him, and fans will always admire him for it. But, of course, being captain of an Original Six franchise has to come with some stressors, especially when you’re the leader of a team that’s not doing well. However, the Blackhawks need leadership right now. They are going through the motions of a rebuild with many young players needing their captain’s guidance as they build their status within the team.
If he really feels like he’s done with it, maybe that’s a sign that a change is needed for the good of Toews and the team.
Related: Blackhawks: 3 potential landing spots for Jonathan Toews
Overall, these quotes can hurt the Blackhawks. Toews spoke about his uncertainties about the direction and future of the team, seeming more solid in his responses day by day, while having tough days as captain – that seems like a recipe for a disaster. If the train driver is not happy, it can produce a domino effect. Negativity spreads quickly and you don’t want to see the team feeding off their captain’s displeasure.
Although Chicago is out of the playoff picture, there is a strong case for ending the season strong, not discouraged. Again, Toews is a legend and one of the greatest Blackhawks of all time. He’s done so much for the city of Chicago and he’s entitled to his opinions. They have weight, which is why what he says is so important. The 33-year-old is in a position where he needs to win another championship now, and the Hawks can’t give it to him, which is the hardest part. But his stance is needed as Chicago enters its next chapter.
He knows he can’t avoid this predicament either, but do you know the saying, “If you like something, set it free?” I know Toews loves the Blackhawks, and Blackhawks fans love him, but turning the tide may be in everyone’s best interest, painful as that may be. In the meantime, let’s hope for some joyous moments at the end of the season.
Just a small city car with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and lots of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.