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

Cubs finalizing blockbuster deal for Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman

Cubs finalizing blockbuster deal for Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman

The Cubs are putting the finishing touches on a blockbuster deal to acquire superstar closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees, sources said Monday, in a win-now move that would cement their status as World Series favorites.

The headliner for the Yankees will be Gleyber Torres, a consensus top prospect and a defensively gifted shortstop who's only 19 years old and didn't have a clear path to Chicago with Addison Russell and Javier Baez already in place.

The Yankees are also planning to bring back Adam Warren, the swingman who didn't quite fit on this pitching staff this year after coming to Chicago in the Starlin Castro trade.

The Cubs would also give up two minor-league outfielders for essentially two-plus months of Chapman throwing 100 mph out of their bullpen: Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford.

Stay with CSNChicago.com for more as this story develops.

32 Days to Kickoff: Downers Grove South

32 Days to Kickoff: Downers Grove South

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26. You can view Edgy Tim's other football previews here.

School: Downers Grove South

Head coach: Mark Molinari

Assistant Coaches: Terry Kent (Offensive Coordinator), Dan Bielawski (Defensive Coordinator), Paul Maggiore (QB's), Tony Nevrly (WR's), Jon Orech (DL), Brian Petring (OL)

How they fared in 2015: 3-6 (3-3) West Suburban Gold Conference. Downers Grove South failed to make the 2015 IHSA state playoff field.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Mustangs bounce back to its winning ways this fall?

Names to watch this season: TE Charley LaCivita, QB Matt Greenwald

Biggest holes to fill: Graduated four-year varsity starting offensive tackle Erik Swenson (Oklahoma) was a leader for the Mustangs on and off the field.

EDGY's Early Take: Despite the graduation losses the Mustangs welcome back 12 starters this season. If South can find some answers in a few key spots they have a chance to give defending conference champ Hinsdale South a test for the WSC Gold conference crown.

Ten years later, A.J. Pierzynski recalls Michael Barrett encounter in Crosstown Classic

Ten years later, A.J. Pierzynski recalls Michael Barrett encounter in Crosstown Classic

Hard to believe, but it's been 10 years since the fist of Michael Barrett famously hit the face of A.J. Pierzynski, creating one of the most legendary moments in the Windy City Series between the White Sox and Cubs. 

The punch lasted only one second, but speaking with the man who was on the receiving end of that punch, Pierzynski knows he'll be hearing about it for the rest of his life.

"It's just one of those things that happens," Pierzynski said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "Hey, you got to be remembered for something."

Fans won't let him forget it, even if some have forgotten what actually happened that day—which might also include Pierzynski. More on that in a moment.

First to the play that started it all. It occurred on May 20, 2006. While scoring a run on a sacrifice fly on a ball hit to shallow left field, Pierzynski knocked over Barrett at home plate. The White Sox catcher then moved towards the Cubs backstop to retrieve his helmet. 

If it was anybody else, nothing would have happened. This story you're reading would never have been written.

But this was Pierzynski, one of the most hated players in baseball, the notorious monkey in the middle of everything.

This Sox was about to get socked.

"I went up to get my helmet. He grabbed me and said, 'I didn't have the ball (bleep)," recalled Pierzynski. Barrett threw a right hook that hit Pierzynski square in the left cheek, producing an image that has been permanently burned into the minds of Cubs and White Sox fans.

Or so we thought.

A decade later, Pierzynski says he frequently comes across people who have somehow forgotten what actually occurred.

"What's happened now is most people don't remember what really happened. They just know Barrett and I got into a fight," Pierzynski said. "Most people actually think that I hit him. People (say to me) 'Remember that time you punched Barrett and knocked him down?' So, it's kind of funny how it's kind of changed over the years."

But still, many people do remember the punch quite well, especially Cubs fans who relish in heckling Pierzynski whenever he comes to town, like earlier this month when his Braves played the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“They’ll say things like, ‘Michael Barrett's coming. Look out!’ And I'll be like, 'Yeah, whatever,'" Pierzynski said. “Or they’ll yell ‘Hey, you suck! Or I hate you!’ Then it’s like, ‘Okay, great. Welcome to the club.’” 

The White Sox won the game that day 7-0, but Cubs fans have had a victory of sorts ever since—the memory of Barrett pelting their White Sox nemesis, a guy who pestered them for years.

But even Pierzynski himself seems to remember the play differently than everyone else. His account of what occurred will probably get under the skin of Cubs fans.

What else would you expect from A.J.?

"He didn't really hit me though, that's the thing," said Pierzynski. "He kind of just pushed me. It was weird, because he grabbed me and we were so close. It wasn't like (Rougned) Odor when he hit (Jose) Bautista where he wound up. I mean, it was so close that he just kind of pushed me off balance. 

"And (third base coach Chris) Speier grabbed me right away and then like 10 guys from the White Sox jumped on top of him. And poor (Cubs outfielder John) Mabry who was my hitting coach in St. Louis. I know we were laughing about it when I was in St. Louis. I think he ended up in the hospital with broken ribs and he had nothing to do with it."

Call it a punch, call it a push, most athletes who take a hit like that would be so humiliated they’d never want to talk about it again.

Not Pierzynski.

“I literally laugh about it. It’s funny to me,” Pierzynski said. “Now my kids are of the age to use the internet, so now that’s like the first picture that always comes up, and they’re like, ‘Why did you get in the fight with the guy?’ I tell them the story and they have to explain it to their friends. It’s just one of those things that happens in your life. Hey, at least it happened on national TV and gives people something to talk about.”

Six weeks after the fight, Barrett sought out Pierzynski at Wrigley Field before the White Sox and Cubs resumed the Crosstown Series on the North Side. The two shook hands, made amends and the feud was over.

But the two have not spoken to each other since.

“I haven’t seen him,” Pierzynski said. “I mean, we played a little bit, but I haven’t seen him off the field.”

What would you say to him?

“I don’t know. ‘Hey, how you doing?’ I don’t even know what he does anymore.”

Barrett is currently the minor league catching coordinator for the Washington Nationals. Attempts to interview him for this story were unsuccessful.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

At 39, Pierzynski isn’t sure how much longer he’ll play. He already has enough baseball memories to fill multiple lifetimes. But his recollections of those classic White Sox-Cubs games will never fade.

“I played in Yankees-Red Sox, I played in Dodgers-Giants, Cardinals-Cubs, nothing matched the intensity," he said. "Maybe it was because I was on the White Sox and there was such a dislike for the other team, not only in the fan base, but also kind of the organization. It’s just kind of there. 

"It just brought out the best. It always seemed like it brought out the best in both teams. It was always the one game you circled, and it was like, ‘Okay, we’re playing the Cubs coming up in a week. Everyone be ready.’”

Pierzynski was always ready—maybe not for Barrett’s fist—but the face that took the beating that day gave us all a knockout Cubs-White Sox moment, one we will never forget.