Blackhawks breakdown: Jonathan Toews

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Blackhawks breakdown: Jonathan Toews

CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Jonathan Toews was in the discussion for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP until a concussion forced him to miss the final 23 games of the regular season. In 59 games, Toews averaged 20 minutes and 51 seconds per game. When the injury struck, he had 29 goals and 28 assists for 57 points and a plus-17 rating. Five of the goals and seven assists came on the power play. Toews was leading the NHL in faceoff-winning percentage (59.4) when he went down. After a lenghty hiatus, Toews returned for the playoffs where he scored two goals -- including the OT winner in Game 5 -- and had two assists, finishing plus-4 in the six-game series vs. Phoenix.

Boden's take: The captain appeared headed for a career year entering the month of February -- historically his best month since his NHL career began in 2007. Instead, he found himself in the midst of a nine-game losing streak and in the beginning stages of a concussion that would sideline him the final quarter of the season. He came back in time for the Phoenix series, and his goal just four minutes into the opener had a shake-your-head-and-laugh feel that something special might happen for him and the team. While he was still one of the better Hawks in that series, he managed just a goal and two assists the rest of the way. While not coming out and saying he was 100 percent, he was medically cleared, but seemed to be battling some tentativeness over what a big hit might bring.

Myers' take: The Blackhawks captain was compiling a Hart Trophy-worthy season until a concussion sidelined him for the final month and a half of the regular season. And an arm injury kept him out of the All-Star Game, to which he was voted. But when he was healthy, he was great. Yes, Toews struggled as much as anyone during that nine-game winless streak. But theres no doubt what he means to this team with all that he does on the ice and in that locker room. The best part of Toews season was that he could play at the end of it; back from his concussion to start the playoffs, he made an impact immediately in Game 1 against the Phoenix Coyotes. And he wrapped up the postseason feeling no residual affects from that concussion.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: Simply put, there is no one the Hawks need to remain healthy the entire season more than their best all-around player. The team did well without him, and maybe the record wouldn't have even been as good if he was there down the stretch and the team took his presence for granted. But, I think everyone would take him -- taking every shift, and doing all the big and little things he does -- end-to-end.

Tracey: Toews couldve played for Team Canada in the World Championships, but he stayed out, not wanting to re-aggravate anything now that hes healthy again. And youd have to believe Toews is going to do everything in his power this summer to make sure he comes into next season as healthy as can be. Toews posted career numbers in assists and points in 2010-11. He has every chance of hitting those numbers again with a full 2012-13 season.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out the video breakdown of Toews as well as highlights from his five-point game in Anaheim above.
Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, SteveMontador, Sean O'Donnell, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Patrick Sharp, Daniel Carcillo, Andrew Brunette, Marcus Kruger, Brendan MorrisonUp next: Sami Lepisto

By the bye: Blackhawks keep rolling following break

By the bye: Blackhawks keep rolling following break

When you're on a roll, you hate disrupting it for anything.

The Blackhawks probably felt that in some respect heading into the new NHL-mandated bye week on Feb. 12, but the need for rest usurped any worry on that front. Still, when the Blackhawks reconvened last Friday, the question remained if they could pick up where they left off on that pre-bye, five-game winning streak.

As coach Joel Quenneville said of the unusual break, "we talked about it going into it: you don't know how you're going to come out of it."

Apparently it hasn't been a problem.

The Blackhawks have won two of their first three out of the bye, including their 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.

Coming out of this break hasn't been easy for a lot of teams. The Blackhawks, like 11 other teams up to this point, lost their first game out of it. But in that loss to Edmonton, the Blackhawks played well. That continued on Sunday in Buffalo and on Tuesday in Minnesota. Now back in a rhythm schedule-wise, the Blackhawks are hitting their stride performance-wise.

"I thought we played a good game against Edmonton but we still felt there'd be some good will down the road. I thought we continued on with these next two on the road, probably played the same way going into it. So it's been a good stretch for us, and much better than we were at the beginning of the year," Quenneville said. "I like the improvement in our game."

A big part of the Blackhawks' success is finding their four-line rotation.

Jonathan Toews was joined by Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik early in the Ice Show trip, the three were given time to mesh and it's paying productive dividends. The second line is always a threat. Their third and fourth lines are a great combination of defense, skill and youth.

As the lines have started rolling, so have the Blackhawks. Each line had someone score against Buffalo. The top line thrived vs. the Wild. 

"I think all year we kind of expected the offense, coming from Arty's [Artem Anisimov's] line and maybe my line, but what's making us a really good team is our third and fourth line going out there and just battling every shift, just working, giving other teams no time, no chance to make plays with the puck," Toews said. "I think when you can rotate four lines like that, everyone starts to pick up their pace and their speed and then you just rotate in and it doesn't matter who scores on a given night. We're getting contributions from all over the place and it makes you a dangerous team and a tough team to beat."

Instead of taking steam out of the Blackhawks' sails, the bye appears to have re-energized them.

"Yeah it was good for our team," Ryan Hartman said. "We had a few guys who didn't get [rest during] the all-star break. They were still playing, and it was nice for those guys to get away from the rink and kind of get in the sun and take your mind of hockey for a bit, refresh the brain and body. I think we all needed those couple days of rest. As it's looked the last couple of games we've looked fresh and we've been bringing it almost a full 60. I wouldn't say we're quite playing a full 60 but we're really close and that was crucial for us."

Playing a full 60 was one of the Blackhawks' biggest problems earlier this season. Much like the four-line rotation, it's showing up at the right time. The Blackhawks have a great opportunity this week to get closer to the Wild, who started their break on Wednesday.

The issues that plagued the Blackhawks earlier this season are starting to dissipate. They weren't sure how they were going to come out of this break. So far, they've followed rest and relaxation with a rejuvenated game. 

"We're just rolling four lines now. Every line can score and every line's playing the best hockey," Panik said. "That's helped us."

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

John Fox and the Bears have added another assistant coach.

Zack Azzanni is leaving the University of Tennessee to become the Bears' new receivers coach.

Azzanni has been with Tennessee since 2013 as a receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Prior to that, he spent time at Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Florida, Central Michigan and six seasons at Bowling Green.

Azzanni was on Urban Meyer's coaching staff at Bowling Green in 2001-02 and also coached Pittsburgh Steelers superstar receiver Antonio Brown at Central Michigan. Under Azzanni's tutelage at CMU from 2007-09, Brown totaled 305 receptions for 3,199 yards and 22 TDs, earning a sixth-round draft selection in 2010.

Curtis Johnson spent 2016 as his first season in the role of Bears' wide receivers coach, but announced he was leaving after the Senior Bowl to take a job with the New Orleans Saints.

It's unknown if Azzanni will get a chance to coach Alshon Jeffery (who is currently a free agent) but the incoming coach will have an important job in molding young receivers like Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.