CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks placed center Jonathan Toews on injured reserve Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, and activated defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk from injured reserve.
The Blackhawks captain and top center has an undetermined timeline to return from the upper-body injury that will sideline him for a fifth straight game when Chicago plays at the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, CSN-PH, WGN, NHL.TV).
Toews hasn’t been ruled out for the game against the Winnipeg Jets at United Center on Sunday, but the Blackhawks won’t rush him back.
“You’ve got to be fully recovered and make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” coach Joel Quenneville said Friday. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”
The injury is related to his back, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Toews has four goals and eight assists in 21 games. He last played in the second period of a 2-1 loss at the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23, when he left after a shift and didn’t return. Toews began skating on his own Thursday, taking the ice prior to the morning skate for the game against the New Jersey Devils. Toews again skated on his own before practice Friday and stuck around for the first 10 minutes of a 20-minute team workout.
He said he’d be playing if this were the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I guess at this point, that’s the frustrating part is that [I’m] feeling pretty close to being able to play,” he said. “[It’s] the type of thing that I think most guys would be able to suck up and just go out there and play if it were a playoff game and you’re putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of the games left in the season, it’s not something to continuously deal with if you’re going to aggravate it and it’s going to keep coming back to haunt you.”
Toews took an awkward fall at the start of his final shift against the Sharks but said the injury doesn’t stem from just that play.
“I think it was just something that [I] started to aggravate in the first period and I tried playing in the second,” Toews said. “In that instance, right there, I kind of went down hard like a ton of bricks just not trying to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t exactly the instance where I got hurt. It was kind of the one instance people were looking for what the explanation was.”
The Blackhawks are 3-0-1 in the four games Toews has missed. The past three have gone beyond regulation, with Chicago winning in overtime against the Devils on Thursday and in a shootout against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday after losing in overtime at the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 26.
“It’s nice to see the boys playing the way wholesale jerseys they are and pulling out the tight games right now,” Toews said. “[I’ll] just come back and check in [Saturday] and see how it is, and hopefully … re-evaluate for Sunday.”
Putting Toews on injured reserve gave Chicago the roster space to activate van Riemsdyk to play against the Flyers. He has missed 20 games since Oct. 21, when he sustained an upper-body injury crashing into a goal post in the third period at the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“That’s something that happens in this game,” said van Riemsdyk, who’s played two games. “There’s some bumps and bruises along the way, so it’s just something you have to deal with. You can’t get too down about it.”
Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick had a non-surgical procedure for a lower-body injury Tuesday and is out indefinitely, the Kings said Wednesday.
General manager Dean Lombardi on Wednesday told the Los Angeles Times that Quick will cheap jerseys China be out for about three months.
Quick opted against surgery for what is believed to be a groin injury sustained in the final 30 seconds of the first period of the Kings’ season-opening game against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 12. Lombardi said last week that Quick’s injury is in the same area as the strained groin that kept him out for almost two months in 2013 and confirmed it was not a knee injury.
A Vezina Trophy finalist last season and the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2012, Quick was injured in the first period of the season opener at the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 12. Goalie Jeff Zatkoff has taken over the No. 1 role for the Kings with Peter Budaj as the backup. Zatkoff allowed five goals on 16 shots before he was replaced by Budaj in a 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
The Kings have started 0-3-0 for the second straight season and visit the Dallas Stars on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-W, NHL.TV).
For the next month or two, we’ll be taking a look at the players who made the Los Angeles Kings’ 2016-17 season what it was: a crushing disappointment that got people fired an up-and-down journey which managed to be both unusual and familiar. Rather than the good-bad-future-grade format we’ve used in past seasons, we’ll ask a crucial question and answer it using it what we saw this year.
Is Drew Doughty worth $10 million to the Kings in 2019?
There is no question that an indispensable part of the core of the Kings is Drew Doughty. The second overall draft pick in 2008 was a Kings fan growing up. Now at age 27, Doughty has compiled an impressive resume: 2-time Stanley Cup winner, 3-time All-Star, Norris Trophy winner, and 2-time Olympic gold medalist. By all definitions, a successful career. And still more greatness to come.
To understand why the Kings value Doughty so highly, watch this video. High levels of skill, toughness, endurance, and leadership. Doughty has built a reputation for stopping odd-man rushes. Here, Doughty saves the shot—and the game—on a 2-on-1 chance when it seemed all hope was lost.Doughty makes Bob Miller’s final home game against the Chicago Blackhawks one to remember.
In 2016-17, Doughty has toned down the overly creative stickhandling and overly fancy passing that was too complex for his teammates in previous years to work with. But the enthusiasm hasn’t toned down, as seen in this overzealous attempt to chase the puck. (Sorry I couldn’t resist including this hilarity.)
Check out Brent Burns—his 29 goals outscore the entire Kings team except Jeff Carter. And check out Karlsson—his 54 assists are the reason many consider him superior to Doughty. Victor Hedman and Letang have 56 and 58 assists, respectively. It makes perfect sense—goals entertain fans and sell tickets. Though we can argue that defense cannot be measured with offensive stats alone, the best defense still remains a good offense, and therefore it makes sense that the top NHL defensemen lead other defensemen in offensive production.
One concern about Doughty is his high mileage. The Kings won two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014, and reached the third round in 2013. With the departure of expert puckmover Slava Voynov in 2014, Doughty became the Kings’ only reliable puck moving defenseman. The Kings then started overusing Doughty in 2014-15 and 2015-16, playing him an average of 28-29 minutes a game. He is down to 27 minutes a game in 2016-17, but it is imperative that other Kings defensemen shoulder more of the load to prevent injury.
So should the Kings pay Doughty $10 million? Unfortunately, it will be uncomfortable to do so. The Kings are already saddled with too many bad contracts—Marian Gaborik until 2020-21, Dustin Brown until 2021-22, and Anze Kopitar until 2023-24 with a no-movement clause. In addition, it is hard to imagine that Carter and Jonathan Quick will continue to bring their A-games each day until 2021-22 and 2022-23, respectively. Efforts to get the Vegas Golden Knights to take on Gaborik or Brown failed, and it is doubtful that any team will ever be interested in such long contracts.
Previously, I wrote that the Kings’ window cheap jerseys nhl to contend for the Cup is only two more seasons, until Doughty’s current contract expires. (And the second year will come at a price, as the Kings won’t trade Doughty’s expiring contract as they need him for one more playoff push.) In two years, Kopitar, Brown, Carter, Gaborik, and Quick will all be well over age 30. Time is running out for the current Kings core.
By then, the Kings will be a completely different team. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will lead a Kings offense centered by Gabe Vilardi. Adrian Kempe and Jonny Brodzinski will provide additional offense, generated by the creativity of Nic Dowd. Andy Andreoff will be the tough guy as Kyle Clifford declines due to concussions, and Jordan Nolan is not brought back after 2017-18. The defense will be anchored by Derek Forbort and Paul LaDue, with a second pair of Kevin Gravel and KHL All-Star Oscar Fantenberg. By then, either Muzzin or Alec Martinez will be traded, and Darcy Kuemper will be starting goaltender as Quick continues to be plagued with injuries.
Despite all of these roster changes, Doughty’s ability to make his teammates better, such as Muzzin and Forbort, is another well-documented aspect of his excellence. Will Drew Doughty be the anchor that holds this new, younger Kings core together? Or will $10 million per year be better spent elsewhere, on whatever the new needs of the Kings will be in two years?
Anze Kopitar signed an eight-year, $80 million contract last January. Given that he was 28-years-old at the time, some fans pondered if it was a good idea to award the Slovenian native with such a long contract given the cap crunch the Los Angeles Kings have faced over the last few years (and will continue to face in the near future). With lengthy, hefty deals handed out to Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, fans were justified in their concern when considering a stagnating (or worse, shrinking) salary cap.
But when referencing Kopitar, is he an overpaid under-performer, or is he simply unlucky? Last year, he scored 25 goals and tallied 74 total points in 81 games. It was his ninth straight year of leading the team in points scored in all situations (he made his NHL debut in 2006-07). This season, though 33 games, Kopitar has managed a meager 3 goals and 14 assists. Not impressive for a $10 million man.
Did Kopitar suddenly forget how to play hockey or is there something else at play here? Let’s take a look at his numbers from the 2009-2010 season through 2015-2016. In just over 7600 minutes at 5v5, Kopitar is third on the team in Fenwick For% (unblocked shot attempts), clocking in at an aggregate 57.29%, right behind Justin Williams (58.24%) and Jake Muzzin (58.30%). His Corsi For% (all attempts) was 57.66%. Basically, for six years, Kopitar has been one of the best forwards at generating shots-for while actively suppressing shots-against. (He’s fifth overall in the NHL and fourth among forwards who have played at least 4,000 minutes.) It seems unlikely that all of a sudden, Kopitar, who has put up no fewer than 60 points in a full season ever in his career, has seen his production fall off a cliff just because he turned 29 -years-old in August.
Is he doing anything differently so far? Well, not really. Among players with at least 350 minutes, Kopitar is unsurprisingly leading his teammates in CF%. On the surface, his 57.56 FF% might suggest that he’s either missing or having more of his shots blocked, but it’s not very far off from his 57.89 CF%, so it’s not like he’s constantly shooting into legs or bodies.
If his shots aren’t being blocked, perhaps Kopitar’s problem is average shot distance. Currently, his average shot distance is 25.33 feet from the net, which is the third closest it has been in his career. In the two years where his average shot distance was smaller, he scored 41 and 33 even-strength points. For what it’s worth, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Connor McDavid (three of the highest point scorers in the NHL), all have shot distances between 22 and 23 feet. Is 24-36 inches enough to make a significant difference? On the surface, it seems plausible but if that were truly the case, shouldn’t Jesper Fast (17.12 feet) have more than 15 points?
Bergeron only has 12 points in 36 games this season. Yet, Boston Bruins fans have largely been quiet about the center’s offensive numbers thus far. His extremely cap-friendly deal with an AAV of $6.875 million and the Bruins holding down a playoff spot are probably two significant contributing factors. Then again, Bergeron isn’t a newly minted captain. Interestingly, the average distance of Bergeron’s shots is 30.35 feet, which is farther out than Kopitar.
The biggest issue with LA’s top center appears to be lack of shots on goal. In keeping with the comparison to players who have played at least 350 minutes this season, the Team Europe captain is sixth from the bottom in shots on goal (SF), with a mere 47. Granted, he did miss five games with a minor injury but in the same amount of games played, Tyler Toffoli has 68 SF. Both have 10 points. It doesn’t seem like blocks are the problem as noted earlier by the incredibly small difference between his FF% and CF%. What does this mean? Possibly a lot of deflections, as we saw with Brent Burns at Staples Center on New Year’s Eve or he’s simply missing. The good news is that the Kings’ fearless leader is fifth in both individual scoring chances and scoring chances per 60. So while his individual shot rate may be a little lower than it usually is, the lack of scoring mostly seems to come down to luck. (And a bunch of posts.)
That’s right, at the end of the day, Kopitar’s scoring woes are affected most greatly by random variance. His shooting percent is 5.7%, the lowest it’s been since 2008-09 (and maybe in his entire career – though wholesale nhl jerseys the data doesn’t stretch that far back). His PDO (Sh% + Sv%) is, as expected, low, hovering around 98.14. If Kopitar keeps shooting and creating opportunities, his critics will probably have to find something else to complain about. For now, time and patience are required until that elusive mistress Lady Luck graces Los Angeles with her presence.