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How Jonathan Toews shows he can still be good for Blackhawks

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The captain continued his recent upward trajectory, following an excellent 2018-19 season with another superior performance.

Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Jonathan Toews has never been known as a big-time offensive point producer, and takes pride in being an all-around player.

But the Blackhawks captain has proved he can make an impact offensively under coach Jeremy Colliton.

Toews finished with 35 goals and 81 points — both career best — at 30 years old during the 2018-19 season. His role shifted with Colliton at the helm and suddenly Toews was capable of producing points just shy of a point-per-game pace.

This past season, Toews saw a .13 points-per-game dip from 2018-19, scoring 18 goals, a career-high low, and 60 points in 70 games. That’s still better, however, than every season since 2013-14 and his seventh-best pace in his career.

Toews led the team in Goals Above Replacement (GAR) (11.2) and Wins Above Replacement (2) this season, according to Evolving-Hockey’s model. What contributed the most to that value was his even strength offense. Plus, Toews boosted the Blackhawks’ offensive production in terms of both quality and quantity while on the ice relative to his teammates.

Toews was tied for the third-most primary points per 60 across all strengths, behind Patrick Kane and Dominik Kubalik, two forwards who don’t play penalty kill minutes, while Toews played 138:16. The Blackhawks captain also led the team with the most takeaways per 60 (2.51).

What led Toews to one of his best seasons, continuing a trend he started last season? There are a few factors.

Toews had the sixth-best faceoff percentage of his career (57.3 percent, 55.73 percent at even strength). That comes along with the third-highest offensive usage in his career, starting 65.73 percent of his shifts at even strength in the offensive zone.

The talent from his linemates also played a role with Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad and Kubalik. This resulted in Toews’ third-lowest individual point percentage in his career, factoring in on 61.22 percent of goals scored when he was on the ice. His teammates didn’t require his presence to score, but he was able to help them and they in return helped him.

It’s also worth noting his PDO was the sixth highest of the team (1.02 at even strength) and the fifth highest of his career. Having some “luck” may have contributed to his success. But, individually, it’s also beneficial to add his 10.5 shooting percentage was the second lowest of his career.

Toews continued stronger even-strength play despite having to play an even more important role on the penalty kill, as he played more shorthanded minutes per game this season (2:02) than last (1:47). That’s despite the addition of Ryan Carpenter and others being capable shorthanded, including Saad, Zack Smith and David Kampf, who should have been able to relieve Toews’ penalty kill workload.

Luck was also on his side. Again, that lead in GAR and WAR was largely a factor of his luck, as his expected goals and WAR were quite different, just .4 and .1 each. His teammates helped him benefit, and his increased usage in the offensive zone has allowed his downward-trending defensive numbers to slip quietly.

With more center depth than previous seasons — with Dylan Strome, Kirby Dach and Carpenter all likely to return next season — Toews could continue to play the same role with the same talent on the top line, as Kubalik is highly likely to come back after scoring 30 goals and being a Calder Trophy finalist.

Toews’ shooting percentage, if anything, will bounce back to be closer to his average. The last time he had one as low, 2017-18 (9.5 percent), he had his greatest regular season the following campaign. If he continues playing at this pace, with a higher shooting percentage, he could at least sustain, if not exceed, his offensive production of this season.

A more offensively-focused Toews might be here for a while.

Stats via Evolving-Hockey.com, Hockey-Reference.com and NaturalStatTrick.com