NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks

Jonny, Anze, and Sidney: A… Story

I know it probably seems like I’m harping on Toews too much lately. But with the main story with the Hawks being that they only have one line, it seems only fair to focus on the main reason there aren’t any other lines scoring. And that quite simply has to be the captain. Quite frankly, I can only write so much about how Trevor van Riemsdyk pretty much sucks but there aren’t any replacements on the roster or in the system.

When I started to look at  Toews’s numbers, it became clear that it would make sense to compare him to the two players he seems to be mentioned with most, either here or in the mainstream. That would be Anze Kopitar, who we’ve often compared him to because we think they’re basically the same guy, and Sidney Crosby who the rest of the world wanted to compare him to (even though Sid is or was obviously better, and if you don’t think so I’ll just point you to him averaging over three points per 60 even strength minutes multiple seasons.

There’s kind of an intriguing curve with these guys and just about all at the same age.

At the top, we’re still only talking about 25 games of Toews struggling. That can still be considered just a slump or blip, though a longish one for sure. By March this could all look silly. So that’s out there. Also, Crosby and Kopitar are a year older than Toews.

There are some striking similarities though. Last year, both Kopitar and Toews dipped below 70 points after consistently scoring 70+ over a full 82 when healthy, or being a point-per-game just about. This year, Kopitar and Toews are both rocking six even-strength points on the year. Both have seen their points-per-60 drop as well to 1.1 for each, when Kopitar’s career mark is 1.9 and Toews’s is 2.3. Kopitar last year, which was his age 27 season (this one is Toews’s) saw his shooting percentage drop about a third, where Toews this year has seen his nearly drop in half in his age-27 season.

Perhaps worryingly for both, both have seen their possession numbers drop off a cliff this season. Kopitar is still above water, as it Toews, but his rate relative to the team is at 0.8% when his career mark is 4.8%. Toews is at 0.5% relative to his team this year when his career mark is 3.8%. Both saw their shot-attempts at even-strength dip below three per game last season. The only difference between the two right now is that Toews has seen his scoring-chance share drop about 5% this year where Kopitar is holding steady. And Toews is compiling all these numbers while getting far better zone starts than Kopitar.

When you throw Crosby into the mix, there are similarities as well. Crosby has also seen his Corsi percentage go “End Of Thelma and Louise” on him, as he’s at 46.4% this year and his relative to the team mark drop nearly 8% to -3.6%. Crosby is also averaging just 1.2 points-per-60 at evens this year, which is hare and tortoise behind his career 3.0 mark. And like Toews, Crosby has seen his shooting percentage crater to 4.7% from a career mark of 13.7%. Again, Crosby has had much worse zone starts but clearly things are not going his way. In both scoring chance percentage and high danger scoring chance percentage, Crosby is about 7-8% behind his career norms, with Toews about 5%.

Again, these could all be anomalies. We’re talking about 25 games here. But I think it’s somewhat worth watching that we’re talking about three centers who are both their teams’ #1 centers and also probably their best defensive centers. All three play physical games, and over all 200 feet of the ice. Crosby obviously has more of an injury history than the other two. But I think what’s worth asking through the season is if these guys’ aging curves might happen a little sharper than most other players because of the games they play and the amount of hockey they’ve played. Crosby has obviously played a little less than the others but maybe that’s why his is coming now at age 28.

Again, this is just a curiosity at this point. But I do think it’s worth a minuscule eyebrow raise that these three players are all hitting this kind of rough patch all at the same time. We’ll check back in on this in say January or so.

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