Tag:Jonathan Toews
Posted on: October 6, 2011 12:25 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 12:57 am
 

Blackhawks will rebound and lift the Cup again

By Brian Stubits

Last season there was a hangover in Chicago. Champagne-induced ones are the worst. That's a big reason why the Blackhawks had to fight at season's end to earn the West's final playoff spot.

But like a regular ol' college student, a day after being bed-ridden it's time to party again. That's my forecast for this season's Stanley Cup: a return to the Madhouse on Madison.

By now everybody has heard enough about the salary cap trouble Chicago found itself in. Former GM Dale Tallon gets a lot of credit for building a Stanley Cup winner, but when he was forced out of town, there was more than a parade to clean up after. For that, current GM Stan Bowman deserves a lot of credit.

Chicago was so crippled by their cap crunch that they lost a few key players to their championship like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Antti Niemi and Kris Versteeg. But the core remained, and now Bowman has reshuffled the cards to stack the deck around said core again.

2011-12 NHL Season Preview

Welcome into the fold Andrew Brunette, Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Steve Montador and Sean O'Donnell to the existing group that includes two of the best young players in the game of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, it's a solid group that also now has a true grinder line. Add the apparent solution to the goal riddle with Corey Crawford and you can see why optimism is back in the Windy City.

Three reasons to like the Blackhawks:

1. Skill: There are three players on this team that topped the 70-point mark last season. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp are each capable of doing it again. Marian Hossa is right there with them. If second-round draft pick Brandon Saad really is as good as he showed this preseason as he earned a spot on Chicago's TOP line, then it's an unexpected lethal addition.

2. Defense: Oh yeah, the group on the blue line has some skill, too. There's a past Norris Trophy winner who will be in the conversation again this season in Duncan Keith. He's a horse for Chicago. Last season he played more minutes than any skater in hockey. He is teamed up with another outstanding and young defenseman in Brent Seabrook. The belief is that they don't have to rely on those two as uch this season as the corps got deeper, adding Montador and O'Donnell to round out a rock solid group that also includes Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy. But the big key is Crawford. He was very impressive in his first full season and with a group like that in front of him, can continue to look stellar.

3. Chemistry: I'm not a massive believer in the intangibles in sports, but you can't deny its impact, especially among linemates. This group in Chicago doesn't seem to have any personality problems on the horizon as it is a close-knit group. "We've had that chemistry right from Day 1 -- no question about it," the veteran Sharp said on Wednesday. "When you bring in veteran players who have had success all across the league on different teams it seems like there's one excitement in the room." Let me put it this way; good chemistry can't hurt matters. Also under intangibles: They have been there before.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:48 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 4:15 pm
 

Central Division Preview: 'Hawks, Wings battle on

By Brian Stubits

Enjoy this while you can, there's no telling what the Central will look like next season.

One of the premier rivalries in the sport is the Blackhawks vs. the Red Wings. The only two Original Six teams in the West, they have long been fierce combatants. In recent years the Blackhawks have awoken from the doldrums, making this a great series once again.

But this could be it, especially if Detroit has its way. Realignment is coming to the NHL, that much is guaranteed after Atlanta moved to Winnipeg. The Red Wings organization has made it no secret it wants to move East, rivalry with Chicago be damned. Columbus and Nashville would both welcome a move East as well. Something's gotta give, and it will be the Central Division.

It's too bad. Because this year the division is set up to be about more than just these two powers.

Nashville is always sneaky good. People seem to sleep on the Predators every season, but you know they will be there. They are looking to build off the first postseason series win in franchise history with their three Stars in contract seasons. St. Louis seems to think its Blues are ready to make a leap, so long as they can stay healthy. That was a challenge last season. And Columbus? Well there is at least optimism for the first time in a while and some buzz around the team after the addition of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski to join Rick Nash.

But as many strides as those teams have and are taking, in the end it will likely still be about the two powerhouses. That's because the Blackhawks are back. They suffered a little last year after winning the Stanley Cup as they had to shed a lot of salary. That meant jettisoning a good chunk of the team that won the Cup. But the core remained together and the team found its groove in the end, pushing the Canucks to the brink in the first round. But after an offseason of reinforcing the roster, Chicago figures to be in the thick until the end.

And Detroit? The Red Wings are ... well they're just the Wings. It's hard to imagine them not being good. Although this year they don't seem to be as loaded as usual, those are some pretty lofty standards. They will still be a threat not only for the division title but in the Western Conference, they can flat out score. That much we know.

So if this is it as division rivals, it should be fun.

Central Division (in predicted order of finish)

PenguinsChicago Blackhawks: Ah, it's nice to be out of salary cap hell, isn't it Chicago? After having to do major salary shedding, the Blackhawks still come out with a cast of characters that includes the names Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and newcomer Andrew Brunette. Throw in Dan Carcillo and Jamal Mayers to give the team some nastiness power and the forwards are well-rounded.

On defense they will miss Brian Campbell, just not his salary. Sure, he is overpaid, but that doesn't mean he didn't bring anything to the table for the 'Hawks. But the defensive corps is still solid, led by Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Expectations are very high in Chicago once again.

Strenghts: It's tough to find a better pair of linemates than Toews and Kane. They are both still stepping into their primes, so they have a lot more to show. Those two are also part of the reason why the power play should once again be successful. Last season the unit ranked fourth in the NHL with the man up, led by Sharp's 12 goals on the power play.

They figure to be better at killing penalties thanks to the additions of Mayers, Steve Montador and Sean O'Donnell, an area where Chicago struggled last season.

Weaknesses: Depth at center is a major concern at this point. The team has been experimenting during camp with Patrick Kane, of all players, manning the center position. Maybe it's an indictment on the centers on the roster. Perhaps it's an indication of Patrick Sharp's health (or lack thereof). Whatever the reason, it's slightly concerning.

I would also be a little worried about the backup goaltender situation behind Corey Crawford. Alexander Salak is going to have the job and he might be more than adequate in the role, we just don't know much about him at the NHL level where he has little experience.

PenguinsDetroit Red Wings: The Wings are remarkably consistent as they have made the playoffs in each of the past 20 seasons. They also stay consistent in their roster, retaining a lot of their players over time. Case in point, this year's forward group. The Wings will trot out mostly all the same forwards as a year ago for when they finished second in the NHL in scoring.

But the defensive corps received quite a shakeup after last season's 2.89 goals against average, the retirement of Brian Rafalski and loss of Ruslan Salei.

In net they have Jimmy Howard with Ty Conklin backing him up. You have to wonder how much confidence Ken Holland and Mike Babcock have in their starter Howard, though, after the team had a failed pursuit of Tomas Vokoun.

Strengths: As mentioned, the Red Wings can score, almost all of them. Last season there were 13 players that recorded double digits in goals scored, led by Johan Franzen's 28. There is certainly loads of experience in Detroit, too. These guys aren't in their first rodeos. That especially includes defensive stalwart Nicklas Lidstrom, who put of retirement for another year on the ice.

Having the leadership that players like Lidstrom can provide certainly doesn't hurt. Also, you might have heard this Babcock fellow on their bench isn't so bad.

Weaknesses: Defense, defense, defense. That is the major concern/question mark here. They revamped the D, bringing in Mike Commodore and Ian White through free agency. Young defenseman Jonathan Ericsson received a pretty lucrative new deal, so he will be expected to improve.

In the defensive vein, the goaltending will also need to get better. Of course, that goes hand in hand with the defense, but Howard has room to improve. Playing for the Wings, his record was solid -- a nice 37-17-5 mark -- but the goals against average of 2.79 (36th out of 47 eligible goalies) and save percentage of .908 (33rd best) aren't worth writing home about.

PenguinsNashville Predators: Hope is high in Smashville coming off the best showing in franchise history, making it to conference semifinals. The Predators have more or less become the NHL's version of a Moneyball team, continuing to cultivate home-grown talent and win on the cheap.

The team is led by the high-profile trio of goalie Pekka Rinne (Vezina finalist) and defensemen Shea Weber (Norris finalist) and Ryan Suter, who are all going into contract seasons. It will be interesting to see how that plays out for each of them. For some players, it's a major distraction, for others it brings out the best playing for a new deal.

If there's anything we've learned about the Predators in recent years it's not to count them out, at least as long as Barry Trotz is on the bench. Maybe this will be the year he finally wins the Jack Adams as the best coach?

Strengths: The Preds have one of the best defenses in all of hockey. That's due to a multitude of reasons stretching from Trotz's system and philosophy to the outstanding personnel on the blue line -- which might get stronger with the addition of heralded prospect Ryan Ellis -- and the elite goaltending of Rinne. All in all, it led to the team posting the third-lowest GAA a season ago.

The farm system is also a strength, it usually is for Nashville. In addition to Ellis, they have forward Craig Smith, who drew rave reviews by scoring six goals in two games in the team's rookie tournament games.

Weaknesses: You would love to have somebody who is the clear-cut scorer on the team. Unfortunately, the Preds just don't score a lot, period, forget about one player. Only two players (Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist) topped the 20-goal mark with Kostitsyn pacing the team with 23. Perhaps a healthy Mike Fisher can help with that, at least that's the hope.

As you'd expect with low offensive numbers, the power play placed in the bottom five of the entire league a season ago. The leading power-play scorer was Martin Erat last season with seven.

PenguinsSt. Louis Blues: After coming out of the gate firing 9-1-2 last season, the Blues slowed down as the season wore along, eventually missing the playoffs by 10 points partly because the team dealt with a rash of injuries. Despite that finish, there is positive momentum going in St. Louis and the ownership sees it. That's why they left the young core of the team pretty much untouched this offseason, just electing to bring in a couple of savvy veterans in Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott to make an impact.

You can see the potential here, especially with another year under their belts. It will be interesting to see how they fare over a full season with Chris Stewert, who they acquired midseason from Colorado last year. After getting the forward, the Blues' offense saw a big uptick in scoring, eventually finishing 10th in the league.

Defensively they came in just below the median at 18th in the league. The Blues should be in the playoff picture all season long.

Strengths: There is a good amount of individual talent here, starting with Stewart and new captain David Backes. In all, they had six players last season score 20 goals or more and one of them, Andy McDonald, reached that plateau in just 58 games. With the abundance of talented and skilled skaters this is a team with plenty of speed up and down the lineup.

You also have to like the young defensive corps that has two stars in the making with Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, who each had 43 points from the back end a season ago.

Weaknesses: We weren't entirely sure where to put goaltending in this equation since Jaroslav Halak had some struggles in his first season as a No. 1 goaltender. However he showed what he's capable of when he was with the Canadiens. But based on his just average numbers of a season ago and the unsure situation behind him (Ben Bishop vs. Brian Elliott), we'll put this as our best guess.

Another area where the Blues are lacking is in the physicality department. You wonder where exactly the toughness will come from.

PenguinsColumbus Blue Jackets: What is that coming from Columbus? Is that hope? Why yes, I think it is. GM Scott Howson was active this summer by bringing in Wisniewski and Carter along with Vinny Prospal and Radek Martinek on the blue line. In addition to signing new players, Howson was also busy in signing his current players to long-term deals, specifically R.J. Umberger and Fedor Tyutin.

Yes, the Jackets are spending money, that's not the problem. What is is the matter of how bang for the buck they are getting. To put it in perspective, the Jackets currently have a higher payroll than the Boston Bruins. The hope is that it translates into success, and a few more fans at the turnstiles as Columbus was 27th in the league in attendance last season.

Strenghts: They have struggled to score recently, but that should be done with, or at least minimized. They have a true No. 1 center now in Carter, which should only further help Nash show he is one of the best players people don't talk about in the NHL. The power play, perhaps Columbus' biggest bug-a-boo in recent seasons, should be significantly better now that they have a quarterback for the unit in Wisniewski (when he's back from suspension) and two very capable scorers up front. It had to get better from last year's 29th-ranked unit.

Weaknesses: Did somebody say goaltending? This is one area where the Blue Jackets didn't do a whole lot of upgrading. Instead, they elected to give the starting reins back to Steve Mason and signing the inexperienced Mark Dekanich to be his backup. Since winning the Calder as the league's top rookie, Mason has struggled. Last season he had a 3.01 goals against average and .901 save percentage. That's a big reason why the Jackets were 26th in scoring in the league.

And while Wisniewski helps, there still isn't much scoring threat from the blue line. Tyutin led Columbus in scoring among defensemen with just 27 points.

NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:04 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 11:15 am
 

Blackhawks flirting with putting Kane at center

By Brian Stubits

If the Blackhawks have any hole on their roster as it's currently constructed, it would be at the center position. Coach Joel Quenneville would like to have more depth in the circle, especially since Marcus Kruger isn't completely impressing the staff.

So it isn't surprising that the team is looking from within to find an understudy. But it is a slight surprise that Patrick Kane is in the discussion. The star wingman has shown enough to get a tryout at center in the coming days. Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago had the quotes from Quenneville.

"He's been playing center throughout scrimmages and practices now and we'll see," Quenneville said.

"Defensively he's gotten better as he's grown in that position with us, down low on the walls. It's something we're going to at least take a look at."

As Myers points out, how about Michael Frolik? He's been a wing man since coming into the NHL but he has potential in the faceoff dot. And by trying him out you aren't disrupting the rhythm Kane has built with Jonathan Toews on the top line.

Even if he is the best of the rest for the Blackhawks at center, I would think he's too valuable to the team in his current position to move. Sure, he could be a fill-in, but I can't imagine the team is giving serious consideration into Kane being one of the four centers. No way would they move him to the another line just to fill the position.

Much more likely scenarios if Kruger doesn't convince them he can handle the center spot include shifting the aforementioned Frolik or maybe Jamal Mayers to the position. Or they could look to fill the void from within the system or even on the scrap heap that is remaining free agents -- John Madden is available for a return to Chicago.

As for Kane's feelings on the possibility, all Quenneville would say is that Kane is "not complaining."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 15, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 10:27 pm
 

Toews gave kid autographed stick after collision



By: Adam Gretz

Earlier this week we passed along a video from a hockey camp run by Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews that included the 2010 Conn Smythe winner accidentally colliding with one of the camp-goers (video above).

The kid dropped to the ice and remained down -- while making an obvious groaning sound -- until the CTV camera cut away. But not before the reporter informed us -- jokingly ... I think -- that Toews, all 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds of him, would be OK for the start of training camp following the hit.

We were still left wondering what happened to the kid, who is obviously a fraction of the size Toews is and was clearly the one that took the worst of the collision. Was he injured? Did he return to the practice? Did Toews do anything for him? As it turns out, yes, yes he did.

A camp spokesperson tells us that after taking a brief break during the session, the kid was eventually able to return for the remainder of the practice and that Toews, feeling bad about delivering the accidental open-ice hit, gave the young man an autographed hockey stick when the session was completed.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 12, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 6:43 pm
 

Jonathan Toews accidentally checks kid

By: Adam Gretz

Jonathan Toews recently spent some time helpig out at the Canadian Tire Hockey School (he is a founding member), and for that we applaud him. It's always nice to see the best players in the NHL helping out the youngsters who represent the future of the game.

Unfortunately for one of the happy camp-goers, he and the former Conn Smythe winning forward had an accidental collision in the neutral zone, which was captured by the CTV camera's.

Have a look, and a quick lesson as to why one of the first fundamentals involved in youth hockey is to always keep your head up.



Yes, Toews will be OK, but sadly there was no update given on whether or not the kid was OK (obviously he took the worst of it), and we've sent an e-mail to the hockey school in an effort to find out. We'll update if we hear back.

(H/T Puck Daddy and HFBoards)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 9, 2011 1:59 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 2:02 pm
 

Blackhawks acquire Jonathan Toews' brother

By: Adam Gretz

A trade that involves a prospect being exchanged for "future considerations" doesn't usually register as a major blip on the NHL's radar screen. Unless the prospect happens to be the younger brother of the captain of a recent Stanley Cup winning team, and the prospect is joining the same organization that said brother plays for.

On Friday it was announced by the Chicago Blackhawks that they have acquired forward David Toews, the younger brother of their captain, Jonathan Toews, from the New York Islanders in exchange for future considerations. Toews was a third-round pick by the Islanders in 2008, and spent last season in the Western Hockey League playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings, scoring 20 goals and adding 28 assists in 60 games.

It's unlikely that Toews (the younger one) will have much of an impact in the NHL, at least when compared to his older brother, but they will be reunited in the same organization. Prior to playing in the WHL last season, Toews spent two years playing college hockey at the University of North Dakota, the same school his brother attended.

Here's a look at the younger Toews scoring a goal -- which followed some nice defensive work along the boards -- against Merrimac from his college days:


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Posted on: August 3, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Blackhawks lock up Sharp with five-year extension

By Brian Stubits

The Chicago Blackhawks cleared enough space in the past couple of offseasons to keep the core of the team together. Now they are locking up those guys, the most recent being Patrick Sharp, who the 'Hawks inked to a five-year extension on Wednesday.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the deal will be for an average salary of $5.9 million. Using quick work of my math skills, that's $29.5 million over the five years.

Sharp is coming off a spectacular season for Chicago, having led the team with 34 goals and chipping in 37 assists in 74 games. The 34 goals were two shy of his career high, set back in 2007-08 with Chicago.

"Patrick is a very important member of our organization and we are looking forward to him being part of a core group that will be a contender for many years to come," Blackhawks Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman said. "Over the last several years we have seen him develop into one of the game’s elite players as well as a fixture in the community and we are proud to be able to announce this news today."

The extension is a fantastic move by the Blackhawks as Sharp is truly an instrumental piece to their puzzle. The dynamic duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane draws the brunt of spotlight, and rightfully so, but Sharp is as key a piece as either in Chicago. It's hard to call a guy who won the All-Star Game MVP underrated, so we won't, but perhaps he's a little unheralded.

Not that there was any concern the Blackhawks wouldn't keep Sharp around, but it's always nice to get it wrapped up and not have to worry about future negotiations.

Sharp is still scheduled to make $4.2 million next season with a cap hit of $3.9 million, the final year of his previous contract, after which he would have become an unrestricted free agent. The 'Hawks now have themselves a large core under contract to make another run at Lord Stanley's Cup.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 19, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 6:21 pm
 

Stamkos' contract compared to recent deals

By: Adam Gretz

The Steven Stamkos restricted free agency saga finally came to its expected conclusion on Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that the 21-year-old forward signed a five-year deal that will keep him in Tampa Bay through the end of the 2015-16 season. His current cap hit of $7.5 million is tied for the seventh largest number in the NHL along with Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik, and it places him behind Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, Rick Nash and Vincent Lecavalier.

It's the first major contract for Stamkos coming off his entry level deal and compares favorably to contracts signed by other young forwards at similar points in their careers. Here's a quick look at how this deal stacks up with the NHL's other top young forwards that have signed their first major contracts in the salary cap era (ranked in order of cap hit)...

Recent Young Players and Their First Big Contract
Player Years Total Dollars Cap Hit
Alex Ovechkin 13 $124 million $9.53 million
Sidney Crosby 5 $43.5 million $8.7 million
Evgeni Malkin 5 $43.5 million $8.7 million
Steven Stamkos 5 $37.5 million $7.5 million
Anze Kopitar 7 $47.6 million $6.8 million
Nicklas Backstrom 10 $67 million $6.7 million
Paul Stastny 5 $33 million $6.6 million
Patrick Kane 5 $31.5 million $6.3 million
Jonathan Toews 5 $31.5 million $6.3 million
Phil Kessel 5 $27 million $5.4 million
Bobby Ryan 5 $25.5 million $5.1 million

Five years is a pretty common contract length, unless you're looking at the Washington Capitals, who have made sure their two best players are taken care of for the next decade (at which point they will still only be in their early 30s). The cap hit puts Stamkos slightly below players like Crosby and Ovechkin and slightly above players like Backstrom, Kane, Toews and Kopitar. And that seems fair based on the on-ice production. He's more productive than the second group and still somewhat behind the first.

The only real concern for Tampa Bay fans at this point -- and this is still years away from being an issue -- is this: Once the deal expires (and yes, we're already looking ahead to the next Stamkos free agency saga) he will be hitting the open market (as an unrestricted free agent -- and that's assuming the age for unrestricted free agency remains the same) at the age of 26, well into the prime of his career.

Salary figures via CapGeek

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com