It’s become a standard part of the narrative of the 2018-19 season that Jonathan Toews had a much-needed bounce-back year. I’m not here to poke holes in that story, and when a guy has a career high in points in the year he’s 30-turning-31, you shouldn’t bitch too much, right? Well, I’ll always find a way to bitch about something, so let’s do it:
82 GP – 35 G – 46 A – 81 P
50.5 CF% – 47.05 xGF% [5v5]
It Comes With a Free Frogurt!
I’ll just say it again because it’s fun: Toews scored a career-high 81 points this season! And not only that, his 35 goals were a career high as well. Relatedly, his shooting percentage jumped to 14.9%, putting him right back in his average range between the years 2013-2016, and showing that bad luck was in fact playing a role last season. Potting nine power play goals—his most since the ’10-11 season—doesn’t hurt either.
And about that power play…obviously this is another one of the silver linings from this year and there many factors at work here. But, let’s give some credit, one of those factors was Toews parking himself in the slot more, while the rest of the first power play unit finally started moving around rather than just watching Kane, making Toews a more reliable scoring threat. It’s weird to say less movement was an improvement, but in this case, cutting out some useless wandering was in fact a good thing. It bears repeating (and no it wasn’t all because of Toews), but the Hawks’ power play finished 15th in the league—a downright normal number, particularly after having such a god-awful start and after being in the basement the season prior (28th in the league). The first power play unit was the one that got leaned on too, so Toews rightly deserves some credit along with the others. If nothing else, he adjusted to CCYP’s strategy and actually implemented changes, unlike, say, Duncan Keith.
The Frogurt is Also Cursed
So the eye test isn’t much of a problem—again, career-high goals and points, functional power play, etc. etc. But it’s in some of the underlying metrics that things with Toews get a little dicier. First, his possession declined by a not-insignificant 5-6%. Last season at 5-on-5 he was at a 56.07 CF%; this year, he was down to 50.5. So he was technically above water but his offensive zone starts remained essentially the same year over year (57.3% in 2017-18, 57.1% in 2018-19). That makes the decline a little concerning. His xGF% isn’t great either. At 5-on-5 it was just over 47%, ranking him below both David Kampf and Marcus Kruger. In all situations it got better—50.34%, but that’s not exactly lighting the world on fire. Granted, this doesn’t mean Toews is done and it’s all over, but it suggest that, just as luck plays a role in a resurgence and the career-high in goals was great, it may be an outlier, not a stable trend.
And there there’s just time…it comes for us all and as healthy and well-conditioned as Captain Marvel is, and presumably will remain, he’s going to continue naturally getting slower as the league just gets faster. But let’s be honest with ourselves: the Hawks are too terrified to scratch an obviously crappy Seabrook—do you think for one second that they would demote a mildly slower Jonathan Toews from the top line? I really hope you know better at this point.
Can I Go Now?
Toews did what we wanted him to do. I was a little unsure about him and Patrick Kane being grouped together again but it worked out better than (at least I) expected. Again, it’s hard to bitch about 81 points, and particularly when it was so sorely needed from our 1C. And yet, it still feels like this was a flash, an exception in the a larger trend of decline for reasons that can’t be stopped. Toews will be the top-line center next year—of that, you can be sure. Whether he’ll still be deserving of it, that remains to be seen.
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