If you’re a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks, you’ve probably had March 3, 2023, circled on your calendar for months. That is the NHL trade deadline … a day expected to have enormous ramifications on the team’s future, both short and long-term.
Topping the list on the Blackhawks Trade Deadline Big Board are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Both are in the final year of their eight-year, $84 million contracts and will be unrestricted free agents this summer. Both Chicago icons have no movement clauses in their contracts, and will need to agree to be moved before any deal is made — but the expectation is that one, or both, will be moved by the deadline.
Take a look at the schedule above. The Blackhawks’ next home game is February 7 vs the Ducks. They’ll also host Arizona, Toronto, Vegas, and Dallas between now and March 3. That means that there is a significant chance that Kane and Toews have only five more games at the United Center.
The Blackhawks without Kane and Toews. It’s almost impossible to imagine.
The CHGO Blackhawks show has been (rightfully) critical of the duo’s play lately. Kane has failed to register a shot on goal in two consecutive games for the first time in his career. Toews is losing battles to players like Mikey Anderson. They’ve been shadows of themselves, but with Monday’s off day, I found myself with some time to zoom out, and look at things for the perspective of two franchise legends.
Let’s start with Kane, who has been plagued by a nagging injury for a few seasons now. He’s also coming off of a leg injury that forced him to miss three games earlier this month. Despite what head coach Luke Richardson says, there is zero chance Kane is anywhere close to 100 percent. He still leads the team with 143 shots (second is Max Domi with 104), but his shooting percentage is a paltry 5.6 percent, 5.8 percent below his 11.4 career average. The puck luck hasn’t been there for Kane at all this season. He’s also lost Alex DeBrincat on his wing. The two had incredible chemistry, especially when centered by Dylan Strome, who also left the organization last summer.
Toews, who missed the entire 2020-21 season with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, understandably had trouble getting up to speed last season. This season, he started strong and even has seven points in his last 10 games. What’s most striking about Toews’ game, though, is the one-on-one battles. When he was in his prime, there were few, if any, players that could out-battle Captain Serious. Lately, we see more and more opponents taking the puck away while Toews lowers his head in understandable frustration. He’ll slam his stick on the boards, more frustrated with himself than any of his teammates.
It’s also important to consider the human element here. We (and I’m pointing the thumb at myself) have a tendency to look at these athletes as soulless automatons, programmed to give us 100 percent of what they have all the time, like their NHL 23 avatars. As much as Kane and Toews have meant to Chicago, we can’t dismiss what Chicago has meant, and will continue to mean, for both players for the rest of their lives. It might seem like an easy decision. Walk away. Go play for a contender. Go do big things. As someone who walked away from their first and only “team” 10 months ago, I can say the decision is never easy, even if it’s ultimately the best thing for you.
(And yes…me leaving Audacy is EXACTLY the same and Kane and Toews potentially leaving Chicago. EXACTLY…THE…SAME!)
Whether the Kane and Toews eras end March 3, this summer, or even in a few years, try to focus on the immeasurable good moments they’ve brought the team rather than the recent struggles they’ve had. Of course, poor play warrants, and will receive criticism, but don’t let the bitter end spoil the sweet memories.
The Week Ahead
Tuesday, January 23 @ Vancouver Canucks | 18-25-3 | 39 points | 6th in Pacific Division
9:00 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
The Rick Tocchet era begins on Tuesday. After the classless dismissal of Bruce Boudreau, Tocchet brings his hard-nosed, yet so far unsuccessful (178-200-60) head coaching chops to Vancouver. In his opening presser, Tocchet called on Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson to take the reins and lead the Canucks. In their first practice, both players seemed to get the message. It’s always interesting to see how a team responds when a new coach takes over, but a large portion of Canucks fans aren’t exactly thrilled with the hire, or how Boudreau’s dismissal was handled. The atmosphere will be strange to say the least.
Thursday, January 25 @ Calgary Flames | 23-16-9 | 55 points | 5th in Pacific Division
8:00 pm on NBC Sports Chicago Plus & WGN Radio
The Flames are right in the wild card hunt. With Monday’s overtime win over the Blue Jackets, Calgary leapfrogged the red-hot Colorado Avalanche, who have won five in a row, to take over the second wild card spot in the West. While they haven’t been what many expected this season, they’re one of those teams that will strike fear in the hearts of their opponents if and when they make the playoffs. They’re big. They’re deep. They’re physical. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom hasn’t been as sharp as usual. His .895 save percentage is well below his .911 career average. If he can regain his form, it will go a long way to improving the Flames’ chances of securing a playoff spot.
Saturday, January 28 @ Edmonton Oilers | 27-18-3 | 57 points | 4th in Pacific Division
9:00 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
Connor McDavid has 40 goals in 48 games. The Blackhawks’ top three goal scorers (Max Domi, Jonathan Toews, and Taylor Raddysh) have 39 combined. He is the fastest player to reach that mark since Pavel Bure did it in 1999-00 with the Florida Panthers.
Time for a random Pavel Bure highlight, for fun.
Anyway, back to the Oilers. They’re stacked with offensive talent. If Leon Draisaitl wasn’t an Edmonton player in McDavid’s shadow, he’d be one of the game’s biggest and more visible stars. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman are both above a point per game players.
As always, it’s about goaltending with them. Mike Smith is gone. The Oilers current tandem of Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner…oh wait, sorry…that’s NHL All-Star Stuart Skinner, are basically splitting time. Skinner has been the better of the two, but it’s safe to assume Edmonton would like to feel a little more secure about their goaltending heading into the playoffs, assuming they make it.
Join us at the CHGO Blackhawks Takeover on Friday, February 10!
Tickets are going fast so jump in while you still can. $65 gets you a game ticket with us in Section 310, one of the new CHGO Hockey t-shirts and a pregame meetup at the Goose Island Pub at the United Center! You can buy tickets here.
Become a Diehard and that price goes down to $52!