Jonathan Toews took time away from hockey in 2023-24, didn’t retire: Can he still play in the NHL?

Former Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said he will take some time away from hockey in the 2023-24 season but is not retiring, he said in a social media post Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Toews has spent the last 15 seasons with the Blackhawks. He served as captain of the Blackhawks from 2008 to 2023.
  • The 35-year-old has scored 372 goals and 511 assists over 1,067 NHL games.
  • Toews has only played 53 games in 2022-23. He missed several weeks when recovering from prolonged COVID and Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. The Black Hawks said they would not re-sign Toews after the season with his contract expiring.

the athleteInstant Analysis:

Can Toews still play in the NHL?

definitely. Even at 35, even with his two-way game deteriorating, even with all his health issues, he’d be a great center in the bottom six for the opposing team, a guy who could play 15 minutes a night. And either kill the penalties or downplay the power play (most likely not both anymore). Yes, he’s a shell of the player he once was, but he still had a respectable 15 goals and 31 points in 53 games last season, often playing alongside AHL-level talent. And no matter how much he can produce, you can be sure that there are managers and general coaches all over the league who would love to have Toews’ leadership and experience in their locker rooms. Few players have as much respect within the league as Toews does.

But the question is not whether he can play, but whether he wants to play. Whether he thought his body could hold out for another full season, whether he’d be willing to take on a lesser role on the ice and in the room after being the Chicago man his entire career. Throughout his illness, Toews defiantly insisted he could be a great player again. He doesn’t want to be just another guy. So his heart – and his belief in himself – must be in him. As he told me in April, “If it weren’t for hell, it wouldn’t be.” – lazerus

Why didn’t the Blackhawks re-sign him?

If the Blackhawks had told Toews they wanted him back and offered him a contract, I think he would have signed it. But general manager Kyle Davidson wanted to clean the deck for the next generation Blackhawks — which now included Conor Bedard, who could certainly benefit from having someone like Towes teach him the ropes to become a Chicago icon — to form a leadership group of their own.

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“It’s about providing this new wave the same opportunity they were given in the last era when they entered the NHL,” said Davidson. “Just a clean slate, an opportunity to step up and step in and work through leadership development on their own terms, rather than putting it off and leaving it to someone else. It forces some people to step up and try things they wouldn’t if Jonathan was in the room.” – lazerus

What did Toyos say?

“I can’t deny my love for hockey and I still have a passion for competing at the highest level,” Toews wrote.

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(Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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