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Let’s Have A Frank Talk About Toews

With the Hawks having collected only two of the last eight points on offer, everyone is calling for Battle Stations. It’s understandable. Patience is hard to find when you’re watching the amount of teams wedge themselves between the Hawks and the last playoff spots. It’s doubly hard when you know how hard it is to climb up the standings, especially with so many teams centering themselves in the muck.

Most eyes are focused on what was the Hawks top line, though that may have changed with a simply bonkers rearranging at practice today (we’ll get to that tomorrow). Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, and Richard Panik all have their goal-droughts or dry streaks, whatever you want to call them. We’ve gone over Saad’s “struggles” recently, so it’s time to look at Captain Marvel a little deeper.

And here’s the thing… Jonathan Toews is having a pretty good season.

I know how that sounds. Seven goals and 18 points over 27 games isn’t what you pictured. It projects out to 21 goals and 54 points, which is a touch short of what Toews has usually put up. Toews’s usual numbers are in the high-20s for goals and mid-60s for points, aside from last year. We almost have to throw out the season-in-a-can of 2013, as it’s the only season where Toews was a point-per-game and was projecting to have a 35-40 goals season over 82. It’s kind of an aberration.

If we flip up the hood, things are more encouraging than you think. Toews’s overall possession share is the highest it’s been since the last Cup season. And in relative to the team it’s the best since 2014. His xGF% is the best it’s been in four seasons, and relative to his team it’s the best in five seasons. Toews is averaging more attempts at even-strength than he has since that 2013 season. His individual expected goals is higher than the past four seasons, and in line with everything that came before his binging of 2012 and 2013.

Essentially, we’re in the same spot we were with Marian Hossa before last season. If you’ll recall, Hossa had seen his shooting percentage decrease for four straight years before last year, and we all thought that’s what we had to expect. And then last year he spasmed a 15% season and 26 goals in 73 games. It can come from nowhere.

Toews has a career-low shooting percentage at evens of 7.8%. That’s down from 8.3 last year, 8.5 the year before that, and 14.2 the year before that which is where Toews lived for most of his career. Now, this is where we could speculate he doesn’t quite have the fastball he used to, or his release isn’t quite what it was. Or maybe he’s not as accurate as he once was, but we can’t really measure that. By all the things we can measure, he’s actually getting better chances than he has in a couple years. Basically, everything is where it should be.

Toews hasn’t benefitted from the power play being a clusterfuck. He’s got one on the man-advantage this year, and he usually racks up six or seven per season. Would everyone feel a little better if Toews had 10 goals overall now and projecting for closer to 30? That would happen if he were getting his normal PP goals. Meanwhile, Toews has been doing this against some of the toughest competition he’s seen in his career.

I know this won’t make anyone feel better. Toews, Saad, and Panik aren’t scoring enough. And the explanation, “They’re just getting shitty luck,” isn’t satisfactory because you can’t really do anything about that until it simply corrects itself. And sometimes it doesn’t. But Toews is in the right end of the ice. He’s in the right spots to score. He’s getting the right number of chances. They’re just not going in.

It’s not much solace, but it’s all we’ve got. And playing him with Ryan Hartman and John Hayeden isn’t going to do much.

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