The constant search for stability on Jonathan Toews’ line has become one of the more tiring narratives surrounding the Blackhawks, and not just for fans. The captain recently discussed the Blackhawks’ constant lineup changes with The Daily Herald’s John Dietz, and hinted at some frustration with how they’ve impacted developing chemistry.
"You look at Arty, the Bread Man and Kaner, as good as they've been you don't really remember them for the game they might have been off or they didn't score," Toews said. "You give them some time to recover and they'll get back on the horse and get their offense going.
"Sometimes it is tough when you have to start that chemistry over. Sometimes it's midway through games or it's a couple times per week. Sometimes, even if I go a few games without scoring or producing, it'd be nice to start to build that chemistry and start to know where the other two guys are on your line."
Since the departure of Brandon Saad prior to the 2015-16 season, Toews’ line has seen regular changes. Just this season, the captain has seen 15 different winger combinations in 48 games, per the Daily Herald. It’s a big change from a couple years ago, when Toews could rely on Saad and Marian Hossa to flank him every night.
Over the past few games, Toews has settled in with Nick Schmaltz at left wing and Richard Panik at right wing. They’ve largely played well, and it’s part of why Toews is on his biggest tear of the season with 13 points in his past nine games. The 27-year-old mentioned in Winnipeg that they “got that confidence going,” which is something he couldn’t always sustain when new guys were shuffling in and out.
Now, none of this should be blown out of proportion. Joel Quenneville still has a firm grasp on the team, and this isn’t the first time his players have expressed some exasperation at the lineup blender. They’ve always been on the same page, though, and there’s little indication that’s changed even as the blender has been running on high.
But Toews doesn’t often take complaints to the media, so it’s interesting to see him talk publicly about being a little jealous of the Kane-Anisimov-Panarin line’s long leash. Presumably the coaches and front office have gotten the message, and they’ll do their best to keep Toews happy and in the best position to succeed.
Don’t be surprised if the Hawks stick with Schmaltz-Toews-Panik for a while. Despite all the trade rumors that have swirled around wingers and the Blackhawks in the past couple months, a desire for stability could factor into just how badly they want to acquire reinforcements. For now, it’s all about building chemistry with the guys in house.