End of the road for Toews? Blackhawks captain 'seriously considering' retirement, sources say
It's looking more and more like Jonathan Toews' career is coming to an unfortunate end.
According to two sources, Toews is seriously considering retiring after the season.
Toews, who hasn't played since Jan. 28 at Edmonton, said in a statement on Feb. 19 that he is dealing with long-COVID symptoms as well as Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. The Blackhawks captain missed the entire 2020-21 season due to both illnesses.
To be sure, this isn't the way anyone wants to see one of the NHL's top centers of all time go out.
Toews deserves to be saluted one last time, so if he has made up his mind to retire then you'd hope it unfolds like this: He holds a news conference to announce the decision and (assuming he's healthy) says he will play in the final home game on April 13.
Now, what are the odds that happens? Difficult to say. After all, we almost never see a hockey player admit he's done during a season.
Toews has been around the team for about two weeks and has attended the last four home games.
Coach Luke Richardson said Toews was first in line to greet teammates in the locker room after their 5-0 victory over Ottawa at the United Center last Monday. Toews also nodded and uttered a quick "hi" to a few reporters as he walked past the dressing room after the team's 6-3 win over Boston on Tuesday.
"I know he's chomping at the bit to take the next step," Richardson said. "Just hopefully he gets there."
A Hawks spokesperson said Toews on Tuesday "respectfully declined" multiple interview requests. Internally, the team has made preparations to honor the future Hall of Famer if they get confirmation that he will indeed retire.
In January, Toews was asked to name the most difficult season of his career and almost said this one, but went with the 2021-22 campaign instead.
"It's definitely been challenging this year," he said. "But I'd say last year was really difficult in the way that we had much higher expectations."
Those expectations soared, in part, because Toews was returning after a year off. He struggled mightily at the start, however, and didn't score until Game 26.
Toews admitted he didn't feel like himself on the ice very often.
"It was a grind," he confessed.
He exploded out of the gates this season, with 8 goals and 5 assists in the first 17 games. He still looked pretty good in the next 27 contests, and notched 6 goals to go along with 9 assists.
After missing the Hawks' game at Calgary on Jan. 26 with a "non-COVID related illness," Toews played at Edmonton two nights later and scored a third-period goal in a 7-3 loss.
Upon returning from their week off, the Hawks released a statement on Feb. 5 saying Toews would not practice, once again due to a non-COVID illness. Two weeks later, the 34-year-old captain released the aforementioned statement.
"It has been really challenging to play through these symptoms," Toews said. "In the last few weeks, it has reached the point where I had no choice but to step back and concentrate on getting healthy. I am thankful for the patience and support of my teammates, the coaching staff, and the entire Blackhawks organization."
Now, think about this: Wouldn't it have been great if fans knew Marian Hossa's career was ending in 2017? Or if Brent Seabrook's career was over on Dec. 12, 2019? In this case, Toews has the opportunity to say goodbye at the United Center during the season finale. Think of the sendoff he'd get.
It might rank as the most emotional moment in franchise history.
And wow, does he deserve it.
If he changes his mind down the road, who is going to be upset? Michael Jordan came back twice after calling it quits. Tom Brady unretired after just two months. Mario Lemieux returned after 44 months and nearly won the MVP in 2000-01.
But this truly feels like the end for Toews.
So make it a special one.