Jonathan Toews is a name recently connected in conversations linked to the Edmonton Oilers. Partially due to Edmonton’s flexibility in the team’s roster and Edmonton’s defensive deficiencies, there is reasonability behind him being suggested as a targeted asset for the Oilers.
Noticeable in the past game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Oilers lacks a true shutdown centreman that can win the always-important face-off no matter the situation. Not only does that allow the team to gain possession right off the face-off, but it transitions into putting the puck continuously on one of the league’s highest-scoring teams. Alongside the intangible leadership quality, Toews brings desirable assets for any playoff team requiring further assessment regarding Toew’s season and the potential impact he could exhibit as the Oilers push for the playoffs.
Toews’ 2022–23 season 5v5 play
Jonathan Toews has the pedigree and qualities that coaches desire in their second or third-line center. The 34-year-old, pending unrestricted free agent (UFA), does retain a large cap hit for the duration of the season, ~$10.5M, possibly proving challenging to compensate for and fit under Edmonton’s salary cap.
Throughout his career, Toews has continually possessed the clutch gene. Never is this more evident than leading the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups as captain, and one of the most iconic Canadian World Junior moments: scoring three straight times in the shootout against Team USA and Blackhawk teammate, Patrick Kane.
Not always the most prolific scorer, Toews excels in other areas of the game. Not to say Toews is not a talented performer; he has averaged 25 goals, 34 assists, and 59 points across 15 NHL seasons. But this season is below his point-per-game career pace of 0.83, as Toews is producing only 0.26 points per game. However, Toews is unmatched in the face-off circle, winning 57% of his draws across his career, increasing to 61.5% this season.
Furthermore, Toews does not shy away from contact, as he effectively strips opponents from the puck either via physicality or through stick checking, resulting in 56 takeaways per season, an estimate he is on pace to eclipse this year while playing in Chicago.
For his career, Toews has posted above-league-average metrics across the board. This includes categories such as puck control, total and high-danger chances for, and outscoring opponents at both the quality of expected shots and goals. However, this season is very off-brand for Toews regarding his career. Across the board, Toews is below league average, although this may have something to do with the status of the rebuilding Blackhawks team he plays on.
The underlying metrics further elicit Toews’s down season. Toews is below league norm at controlling the puck, generating and mitigating chances for and against for both expected and actual goals for, and is being out-chanced in high-danger areas at a rate of two to one. Categories would prove hindrances for the Oilers to overcome, as although they may have resolved their defensive issues since New Year’s, it is only a four-week sample size that may or may not continue depending on Jay Woodcroft’s continued defensive structure use.
Toews’ 5v5 line impact with a minimum of 40 minutes TOI together
|Philipp Kurashev-Jonathan Toews-Taylor Raddysh||293||43.5%||37.0%||33.3%||40.2%||33.8%|
|Tyler Johnson-Jonathan Toews-Taylor Raddysh||101||46.9%||43.7%||50.0%||41.5%||41.7%|
|Andreas Athanasiou-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane||43||34.1%||25%||0%||31.4%||30.0%|
Completing line analysis is challenging and required as benchmarks must be established to determine nonbiased or skewed results from too little time spent playing together. For the study of Toews, due to him mostly playing with only three line combinations, it was a simple matter of identifying 40 minutes TOI as the benchmark. With all minutes being studied occurring at 5v5, the numbers are not impacted by either the man advantage or being shorthanded.
It is apparent that all the lines have yet to sustain any success over the season. Although the Blackhawks are a rebuilding team, this could help explain the play of Toews’ line as he is looked upon to generate offensive while mitigating chances against the second forward line. When paired with Philipp Kurashev and Taylor Raddysh, Toews’ most played-with linemates, they are 6.5% below league average at controlling puck possession at full strength, which is the line’s best rate of the various categories. Examining the quality of shots against, this line is caved in again, implying they cannot generate quality chances for and mitigate opponent chances against. Similarly, when examining the line’s ability to create and stop high-quality opportunities, the line gives up two high-quality chances against for every opportunity for.
Unlike the previous line examination, Toews has spent 150 minutes centering either Tyler Johnson and Raddysh or Andreas Athanasiou and Patrick Kane. In short, the advanced metrics propose these line combinations have been similarly subpar to the Kurashev-Toews-Raddysh line. Across the various categories mentioned earlier, including puck control, total and high-danger chances for, and outscoring opponents at both the quality of expected shots and goals, both lines are dominated by the opposition night in and night out.
Interestingly, even though Toews is winning 57% of draws, the closest his line comes to league-average puck possession is when paired with Johnson and Raddysh. However, it is still in the lower tier and is likely one of the worst second lines in the NHL. This line combination also retains the highest expected goals for, measuring shot quality for and against, indicating even at its best, this line is 9% below the league average, only generating four out of every ten quality shots that exhibit a percentage of finding the back of the net.
Lastly, aligning with Toews’s statistics, his linemates do not help cover the slot as dependent on the line combination. The opposition is out-chancing Toews’s line at substantial rates, generating either six or seven per ten total chances across both lines.
Would Toews be a good fit on the Oilers’ roster?
Depending on the cost, Toews may seem like a reasonable cost and asset for the Oilers to acquire if he could regain his form once again and be surrounded by better talent and a passion to win. The Oilers currently needs a true bonafide dependable center. If the Oilers acquired Toews, his face-off percentage would be first among Oiler forwards. Having Toews center, the third line of Ryan McLeod and Dylan Holloway would implement the Oilers with a deep top nine with an above NHL average top six capable of scoring and a defensively-minded third line that could control play while still being dangerously offensive.
The most significant task of acquiring Toews would be the cost and finding room under the salary cap. Currently pressed to the salary cap, the Oilers would require a money in money out situation, including needing the Blackhawks to retain at least half of Toews’s salary and, if necessary, garner a third team to take on a portion of salary as well.
The Oilers are armed with a vast amount of draft capital, including this and next year’s first-round pick, along with either one of Warren Foegele or Jesse Puljujarvi being expendable. This could be a beneficial deal for both teams. First, Puljujarvi could obtain a fresh start. Second, the Oilers could be cap compliant and retain the services of a steady, dependable, and defensive-minded centreman with championship pedigree and leadership qualities, which is what the team requires to obtain the needed depth to push into actual contender status.