Jonathan Toews is paid to play solid defense, win faceoffs and battle hard for pucks all over the ice.
He’s paid to help kill penalties and to make sure the power play is running smoothly.
As the Blackhawks’ captain he’s also paid to put out any behind-the-scenes fires and to make sure team morale stays up, even in the most dire of circumstances.
And, of course, Toews is paid to score goals.
So while Toews is doing — at a minimum — an adequate job in plenty of areas, he’s yet to find the back of the net even once during the Hawks’ first 21 games.
Toews is one of seven forwards who have yet to score with 25 or more shots on goal. He and Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler have the most at 37.
It goes without saying that every team needs their top centermen to be at least a moderate contributor in the goal-scoring department. When they’re not, it often creates a nasty ripple effect that makes it difficult for teams to win consistently.
The Hawks, while 6-3-0 under King, are nonetheless 1-for-30 on the power play over the last 11 games. They also have just 8 goals in the last five contests.
So do you pull Toews off the top power-play unit? Move him into a third-line role for a while?
Those are tough conversations to have with a future Hall of Famer and a three-time Stanley Cup winner, but only Toews knows for sure exactly how he feels.
Bottom line: There’s little doubt that coming back after a season away has not been easy.
“It’s not minor hockey, you know?” said interim coach Derek King after the Hawks lost 2-0 to San Jose at the United Center on Sunday. “You can get away with it there, but here these players are good (and) these are good teams. … When you miss a year of hockey and you’re coming back and you don’t score for a while, it starts to get to you. But he’s working hard, he’s doing all the things we ask (of) him.
“He’s our leader and he’s playing good hockey.”
Toews had a few chances against the Sharks, with perhaps the best one coming when Dominik Kubalik looked for a redirect off Toews’ stick on a power-play. The puck flew to the end boards, making only slight contact with Toews’ stick.
It’s difficult to say if the pass could have been a bit more on target, or if Toews simply missed, but most guys will tell you they’ve got to get more wood on the puck to at least give it a chance.
“The pass could’ve been more on the heel than on the toe or in the middle of the blade,” King said. “It’s a game of inches, right? And right now, we’re missing guys a little too much in that area with the passes.”
Toews did not speak to the media Sunday, and the Hawks did not practice Monday.
Toews is frustrated and likely pressing too much to end this drought. When he spoke two weeks ago after a win over Arizona, Toews said he’d like to improve “everything” in his game.
As for the goal drought, which was at 15 games at the time, Toews said: “I mean it doesn’t bother me. But, you know, I’d like to do something about it one of these days here.”
Since then Toews has just 8 shots on goal in six games. So maybe it’s just time to shoot first and ask questions later.
“It’s just not clicking right now, and it’s not just him, it’s a bunch of them,” King said. “We just have to stay the course and fight through this.”
While Toews has yet to score, it’s not like he’s the only one struggling on the Hawks (7-12-2). Far from it.
Did you know just five Hawks have 3 or more goals thus far? FIVE! And two of them are Dominik Kubalik and Kirby Dach, both of whom should have at least 6-7 by now.
The Hawks are averaging a paltry 2.14 goals per game, second worst in the division behind Arizona’s almost comical 1.86.
Colorado leads the way with 4.06 goals per game (almost double the output of the Hawks) and has eight players with at least 3 goals. Minnesota is next with 3.71 goals per game and has 11 skaters with 3-plus goals.
So, yes, other than Alex DeBrincat (12) and Brandon Hagel (7) it would help if all of the Hawks stepped up their game. This goes double for the blue liners, who have a measly 4 goals COMBINED. That’s the same total as Adam Boqvist has for Columbus in just 12 games. You all remember him, right?
“For the most part, the floodgates will open for some of these guys,” King said. “And if our power play starts clicking again, we’re going to be on top of these teams and we’re going to come out ahead.”
We’ll see. Because if it doesn’t happen soon the Hawks’ little resurgence under King is in big trouble.
Roster move: The Blackhawks recalled forward Josiah Slavin from the Rockford IceHogs and assigned forward Philipp Kurashev to Rockford.