If Toews was just starting to hit a decline, no one would be questioning why. He has accumulated over 900 regular season, playoff, and Olympic games while spending over 18,000 minutes on the ice. That’s a lot of mileage for someone who is responsible for so much on every shift like Toews is. Unfortunately, there’s clear evidence that Toews’ decline started before the Hawks even played for their third Stanley Cup.
During the first Cup run in 2010 Toews was almost a point per game player, accumulating 68 points in 76 games played. His production continued to rise in 2011 with 76 points in 80 games, and though his next two season were injury-shortened he compiled 105 points in 106 games and won another Stanley Cup. At age 24, Jonathan Toews had two Stanley Cups and should’ve been entering his prime as an elite scoring forward in the NHL.
Toews’ concussion history is well-documented, or at least as well-documented as injuries in the NHL can be. He missed significant time in both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons due to concussion symptoms and has virtually admitted to playing through those symptoms when he probably shouldn’t have:
“You come out of a game and feel those (concussion) symptoms, I guess,” Toews said. “You don’t want to admit to yourself what it might be and you kind of keep going so it’s not clear when it might have happened. The toughest thing was coming to grips with it and saying it’s something I had to deal with and couldn’t keep playing with.”
He even crashed his Mercedes into a pole in 2012 while attempting to recover from a concussion that kept him out for 23 games during the 2011-12 regular season. At the time, there weren’t a lot of long-term concerns, though there were whispers from those who had enough foresight to see what was going on.
Head injuries in the NHL are a mysterious. Sidney Crosby missed more than an entire season with concussion symptoms, and we may be seeing it in Chicago again with Corey Crawford allegedly dealing with vertigo and having no timetable for a return. In Toews’ case, one thing is certain: after two season of concussion problems, he was never the same player.
His point total has gone down every season since 2013-14, bottoming out the past two season at 58 regular season points. He also had his worst Corsi and Fenwick seasons the past two campaigns and is on pace to have his worst offensive season ever in 2017-18. Of course, he’s not playing with Patrick Kane as often as he was when the two first broke into the league, but Joel Quenneville has been keeping them separate going as far back as the 2012-13 season.
These days, Toews deals with back injuries and the undefeated Father Time as his minutes creep closer to 20,000 for his career. Yet, it’s hard not to notice that he went from dangling past defenders and creating dazzling displays of offense from age 19-24 to being a net-front presence who scores most of his goals in the dirty areas through his age 25-29 seasons. It’s fickle to think about what could’ve been when referring to a player that’s brought the city of Chicago three championships.
But damnit, how good could he have been?