What is Jonathan Toews’ Legacy with the Chicago Blackhawks?
Thursday night in Florida, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will appear in his 1,000th career regular season game.
Every single one of those games has come in the Blackhawks’ sweater. And 137 more have come in the postseason with the Hawks. And there have been Olympic games representing Canada in there, too. Since he was selected third overall in 2006 and joined the NHL club a year later, Toews has been the Chicago Blackhawks.
Now that he’s at this milestone, it’s a good time to take a step back and assess his place in the history of Chicago’s Original Six franchise.
Here’s the easy reality: Jonathan Toews is the greatest captain in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks.
He started his career with an All-Rookie Team honor and was runner-up for the Calder Trophy to Patrick Kane. He was named captain before the 2008-09 season.
If we look back at the history of the gentlemen who have worn the “C” for Chicago, nobody has done it longer than Toews. Early in the franchise’s history, Johnny Gottselig was the captain for six seasons (1934-35 to 1939-40). Pierre Pilote wore the C for seven seasons in the 1960s. Darryl Sutter wore it for five seasons in the early 1980s and only two players — Dirk Graham and Chris Chelios — served as the captain in the 1990s.
For the sake of longevity in the captaincy, he’s the longest.
Only seven players have appeared in 1,000 regular season games with the Chicago Blackhawks before Toews: Stan Mikita, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Kane, Bobby Hull, Eric Nesterenko and Bob Murray. Toews will be the eighth, and half of those have come from this recent generation of dynasty leaders.
That should make you understand just how special this past 15 years have been in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks. In 95 years of existence, some of the top players in the history of the franchise — whether it be in point production, scoring, individual awards, games played or championships — came from this era.
Toews is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. That was true in 2015, when he was handed the Stanley Cup by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for a third time. He was the youngest player ever to become part of the exclusive Triple Gold Club; he did that with the Olympic gold and Cup double in 2010.
He won the Conn Smythe as the most valuable player in the postseason in 2010. He had 29 points in 22 games in those playoffs and was a truly dominant center.
Toews added a Selke Award to his resume in 2013 and a Messier Award in 2015.
For a decade, Toews was in the conversation for the gold standard at center in the NHL. Yes, Sidney Crosby got the magazine covers and individual accolades and Patrice Bergeron won more Selkes, but not many players were tougher to play against than Toews.
And he battled through pain. A lot. When I interviewed him in 2012 for a cover story of The Fourth Period Magazine, he shared the grueling battle he had with concussion symptoms during those seasons. He wasn’t right many nights, but he still showed up and went to work and performed.
Toews sold sweaters, showed up in Chevy commercials and was the unquestioned leader of the Chicago Blackhawks for more than a decade.
So what do we do with the current state of affairs in Chicago?
Over the years, many fans have begged for “Captain Serious” to lighten up. We wanted to see the smile, not the famous intensity. We wanted to know how he really felt. Speak your mind! Please!
Well, recently, Toews has been more open. And it hasn’t been as welcomed as fans would have expected ten years ago.
He has been open about dealing with health issues that led to fatigue in the bubble when the NHL returned from the COVID break in 2020, and he took the following season off to get his body and mind right.
Since coming back this season, Toews has struggled on the ice. There’s no denying that; his offensive numbers haven’t been there. He’s still strong in the faceoff circle — he always has been. But fans want more from him in the box score. That’s largely because the 2018-19 season was perhaps the best offensive season of his career. He scored 35 goals and had 81 points, both career highs. It appeared age wasn’t a problem. But… it was. It is for everyone.
As this struggling season has progressed, Toews has been more open with his answers with the media as well. And that has, frankly, pissed a lot of fans off.
He was recently asked about his long-term future with the Chicago Blackhawks after the trade deadline and he honestly answered that seeing guys leave (again) does make him wonder if he’ll be a Blackhawk forever.
Well… let’s think about that. We’ve all watched Tom Brady, “forever a Patriot,” leave New England and win a Super Bowl in Tampa. Matthew Stafford followed suit, leaving Detroit and winning a Super Bowl with the LA Rams. LeBron James has more stickers on his suitcase than any prolific superstar in history; Magic and Bird never changed jerseys. And even though many will say “if Gretzky can get traded…” or “Jordan was a Wizard,” Blackhawks fans are still angry that Chris Chelios wore a Detroit sweater.
So when Toews says he has pause considering his future recently, while that isn’t ideal for the hearts of fans, and his play on the ice has been as frustrating for fans as it has been for him, the easy response is anger.
But the other context behind Toews’ comments is… what is Toews’ long-term future in the NHL?
He turns 34 on the final day of the regular season, which means he’ll be 35 when his current contract expires after next season. I think we’re all on the same page that trading his $10.5 million cap hit — even with a big part retained — is going to be incredibly hard to do, even if the Hawks wanted to move on and Toews wanted to leave (which I do not believe he does at this time).
Toews should be a third-line center at this point. And we expected that when he and Kane signed their matching eight-year contracts in 2014. They broke the bank, setting the new standard for superstar contracts when they received matching $10.5 million per season deals. But we all looked forward at that point in 2014 and knew he would be 35 when the contract came to an end.
The problem hasn’t been Toews’ transforming to a third-line center. It’s been the organization’s failure to develop two centers who were as good/better than him in the past decade. There has been no graceful transition for Toews; his health pulled him out of the lineup at a time when the club was struggling and the cupboard hasn’t been replenished.
Kirby Dach isn’t a top-line center. And, until recently, Dylan Strome’s struggles at the dot gave the organization understandable pause in considering him a top-line center candidate.
They have been forced to rely heavily on Toews — more heavily than they should at this stage of his career.
But he keeps showing up for work.
It is completely understandable that Toews’ comments about his future received a burning response; Chelios told every microphone he could find that he would never play for the Red Wings and then… he went there. We also need to recognize that his career may not be long after this contract — and he knows that better than any of us.
Toews has poured his heart, soul and body into making the Chicago Blackhawks a championship organization on the ice. Like Seabrook, he has left more of his body on the ice than many of us will ever realize.
So as Toews takes the ice for the 1,000th time, let’s put the “eff him” and “trade his ass asap” comments in the drawer for a few hours. Let’s respect and honor the warrior who led the team to three championships. He might never be an 80-point player again, but he’s been the greatest captain in the history of the organization. And the next captain, whenever that comes to pass, will have huge skates to fill.
32 thoughts on “What is Jonathan Toews’ Legacy with the Chicago Blackhawks?”
A great story on Toews ! A great Canadian captain whose number 19 will hang high at the U C , along with a picture in the HHOF Toronto ! The club of the decade ,a dynasty because of him , a Winnipeg native. The Hawks should learn from him and draft a few more western Canadian kids ! I think that Davidson will draft a few more like Toews , POPS 4
A very nice tribute well said and well deserved.
Incredibly dominant… fast/power/skill/IQ/puck possession / Defense/ two way line
What a pleasure to watch ?!!!!! For so many years.
Tab- you captured our collective sentiments and highlighted a brilliant career that likely will not be repeated- in our lifetime anyway.
We wish him good health at the very least! Having witnessed his serious demeanor over the past decade+, he will no doubt choose a path going forward that we, his loyal fans, will truly support!
His legacy in NHL history is cemented already abs is shared by only few hockey leaders.
Excellent write up. I can’t believe that he is about to hit 1000 games. It’s only fitting that the greatest captain in Hawks history joins the rest of the “core” in that milestone. So many great memories of him wearing the Hawks sweater.
Beautiful tribute. Could not agree more. I hope he stays. These past couple of years have been a huge challenge for him. And from my POV, I see him progressing. I think next year will be a huge bounce back for him.
It has really bothered me reading some of the posts here recently about Toews. Rude criticisms, short memories, and no idea or real experience to say the things said. Just a lot of angry “experts.”
Excellent write up for a deserving Legend of the franchise. He deserves no criticism. He gets to choose on how his career plays out.
Thanks Tab – great summary and with the appropriate amount of passion – the way Toews plays
At his peak Toews was the guy you’d want to start a franchise with – it’s been hard to watch him decline because of just how great he was – first time HOFer
Not sure what the future holds for him – with the Hawks or not – but he has earned the right to decide how to finish his career
Wouldn’t be surprised to see bounce back year next season
His talent lasted from 2008-2015, a short but good career,not sure he was the real captain, my guess is Seabrook, or Hossa we’re the real captains……EXAMPLE……2013 vs Detroit, Captain Crybaby blew a gasket, was in disarray and Seabrook had to calm him down in the penalty box….. anyone ever see Toews do anything like that ?? Y’all can say what you want to me, that’s ok, Toews served his purpose as the #1 center….that doesn’t make him a leader…..he certainly was not off the Ice a d YES the Kyle Beach incident and his comments in regards to that is all the proof I need.
Perspective is wonderful. Thanks for the story. The timing is also great as a few sharks are circling-but I guess they know better. (Sarcasm)
Some flaws but we all have them, and he is a great NHLer, champion and captain.
Tab, you hit all the right notes. I love the way Toews has played the game. The way he represents the team and how he wears the captain’s “C”. He has given, literally, everything his body has to offer for the Indian Head Sweater. Yes, at this point in his career, he’s a 3C. It happens. Steve Yzerman, as he aged, was no longer a 1C. But, he had Federov to take that spot. Strome, and his game, has gotten much better. Dach has not. So, who will be the 2C? Will that be addressed through FA or the Draft? It has to be addressed nonetheless.
As for Toews venting his frustration? Think about it. He had Hossa and Sharp. Then Hossa and Saad. He has been with HOF and solid players. At one point, he had Saad and Kubalik, as a rookie. It was working. He has always had different guys, as has Kane. When Tab referred to Crosby, Crosby has had Malkin for forever. Toews and Kane have also seen all their mates go away. Keith being the last. Mentally, you know the Stanley Cup days are over. This team will not be back during his remaining playing days. Kane may be gone in the off season. That would leave Toews, AND ONLY TOEWS, as the last reaming Stanley Cup player from the Chicago Blackhawks. Having the fickle fans go through the “what have you done for me lately?” has to get to a guy who has been loved and adored. No one did that to Walter Payton or Michael Jordan. Toews deserves much better than what too many fans are throwing at him. Aside from being the Greatest Captain in Blackhawks History, he’s also an exceptional human being. That’s not easy. Stan Makita, Denis Savard are two centers and captain’s who were and are exceptional human beings. Let’s forget the “What have you done for me lately?” B.S. and realize that when he’s gone…who would be the next captain? Who wears that “C”? Who has the aura of command that Toews has? No one on this team…at this point. Toews didn’t demand respect. He earned it. He is Captain Serious. 1,000 games. I wish I could clone him and get 1,000 more. Whatever happens this off season and however Jonathan Toews chooses to step away from the game, Blackhawks fans should realize that he is that, much overused term, Generational Talent. Yes, Kane is also in that category, but for different reasons. Toews is Captain Serious. He will always be “The Captain”. 1,000 games? Congratulations Captain Serious. It’s well earned and well deserved.
good read BUT i believe lately it’s not how is he speaking to the media, BUT HOW IS HE TALKING WITH TEAMMATES AS A LEADER.
“C” is a ultimate symbol for Hockey
lets face it, Toews had great leaders in many dressing rooms from the Hawks to the olympics.
Maybe Q had the energy to motivate the players, Maybe Hossa expressed more or yelled more, Maybe Seabrook talked more to motivate or preached about X n Os.
Maybe since 2015 the players have zoned Toews out, maybe he zoned out know. Maybe he is done and running on fumes.
either way 19 will forever be a Hawk. will he be the best from the hawks, only generations can express that.
stick tap for 19.
Nice article Tab….I think you all the nails right on the head.
From where I sit I think Toews was the best overall hockey player in the world
from 2009-2016, ya you had Crosby but he wasn’t close to Toews on the all
Babcock coming and asking Toews if he was alright with Sid being the Captain
on the Canadian hockey team says it all for me.
We were all so fortunate to have JT as our captain on the 3 Cup teams, so while
he isn’t perfect, I don’t anyone who is. So sit and think back to how lucky we were
to have him play for the once Mighty Hawks!
Toews has been a great Blackhawk, one of the all time greatest. The older of us here will, unfortunately not see his like in a Hawks sweater again. We are lucky to have him.
Great points in your post. Look forward to watching the game tomorrow and hope the Blackhawks take this celebration to the next level. As long as he is healthy and of sound mind I hope he stays as long as he would like.
Great to hear all the comments about Captain Serious! I’m Canadian and I comment quite often ! I’ve been a blackhawks fan since 1958 and I’ve played for 60 years around the Hamilton region in Canada ! He is great ! I’m elated about the comments by Americans about this player ! I come a few times a year to the U.C and I’ve seen the Hawks play at 15 of the NHL arenas and I attended the games and training in Zurich in 2009 and they called it the “ the glamour of the NHL in Zurich “ as they were princes with interviews and the way they handled themselves ! Best, POPS 4
Great article, Tab. Thanks!
Toews is the greatest captain in Chicago sports history. He deserves a statue. He should never be traded.
19 will ask to leave, IMO.
Thinking 88 will do the same.
The previous GM left behind a burning dumpster fire as he went whining out the door.
It will take the new GM 3-4 years to put it out.
You do not put it out in a 1-2 years when you need a goaltender, four defensemen, a head coach, two top line centers, and 2 top line wingers.
Those are years 19 and 88 do not have.
Who can blame them for wanting another shot at hoisting the Cup again somewhere else?
Having fallen in love with this organization since my first game at the Chicago Stadium in 1967, I really thought they would never win the Cup as the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s rolled by.
Then these two guys showed up along with the rest of the dynasty players, and the coach.
So now I can die in peace.
19 is the best damn captain the team has ever had……..bar none.
88 is the most talented and exciting scorer the team has had since 18.
If you own a jersey of either, you can wear it proudly. Just like they have.
Babcock also, when asked what was his best line combo replied….whatever line Johnny centers
Toews is one the great Black Hawks off all time period . . . His 1,000 games with a lot of playoff minutes and the grind of the CUP wins ups the perception and reality. Toews real value was in his ability to lead some very very very talented teams and being coached by Q. Toews ability to pull palyers together and to lead by example, Seldom with his offensive skills but MORE with his defensive mindset, his addiction or commitment to getting back on defense, to back check, fill gaps and play on the penalty kill. Workhorse! He spent a lot of time next to KANE which makes literally anyone better offensively, yep anyone. Toews more importantly is a class act, not a fighter, no cheap plays, not lazy, he is a great NHL icon not just Chicago. I think Toews had a huge upside potential in his offensive game, he is one of the most SKILLED players in the NHL, good size, good speed, strong hands and great accurate shot. I just feel he really was soooooooo dedicated to defense that his goal scoring skills which should easily be 30 goals a year suffered, BUT with the CUP teams others picked it up so it was not a big deal because it worked, The last five years or so the need for his offense and on ice steadiness became more apparent. Anyway you can not underrate CLASS and CALM. One of the games greats.
Great piece. Like him or tired of him, you have to respect what he has done for this franchise. The collective group from the dynasty years deserves a stick tap, but the captain should get a double. He represented the team and city well in everything he did and will represent us well in the HOF. For those critics, imagine adding this guy as your #3 center men. That’s what he is at this point in his career, not his fault that he can’t be that on this crap team. Hopefully, he gets the opportunity to do that elsewhere and earns another cup or two. I don’t see Crosby as a comparable but more like Kopitar or Bergeron and I’d bet his numbers would be better with the wingers those guy roll with than the crap he has to his right and left.
He’s not just the greatest captain in Hawks history. He was one of the best captains in any sport during the 2010s. The last 5 years aside, he is squarely in the conversation for all time great captains in hockey. Yzerman, Messier, Beliveau, Potvin… hard to not mention the leadership of Toews in that group. Just one guy’s opinion.
Great article on The Captain. I’m glad that I don’t have to see the daily garbage being thrown at him because I left that city in 1990. But I grew up watching Hull and Mikita and Toews and Kane blew them away with regard to the success of the team. Bowman should have been fired after he traded Panarin to get Saad back (the only trade worse than that in Hawks history was Phil Esposito to Boston), but instead Stanley burned down the rest of the team. In 2010 at the Olympics, EVERYONE said that Toews was THE LEADER of that team, not Sid. So to all of you ‘experts’, get a clue. You won’t see the likes of this kind of quality Man as well as teammate for a long, LONG time. I personally believe that Kane really wants to be a Hawk for life, so I would love it if they both stayed and went out together, when that time comes. But show this Man some RESPECT! He earned it.
I couldn’t agree more with Beer plus League’s comments.
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