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Q&A: Jonathan Toews on future, trade deadline and more


In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Chicago, Jonathan Toews opened up about his potential future, what his conversations might be like with GM Kyle Davidson leading up to the March 3 trade deadline, whether Patrick Kane's decision could influence his, Luke Richardson's leadership and much more.

You can listen to the interview on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast. Here is the full transcript from the Q&A, which has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity:

We're recording this after back-to-back wins, how important have these two wins been for the morale of the locker room?

I mean, it feels a lot better. There's no doubt when you get a win or two, everyone gets a little bit more excited. You feel the result, you feel what you've been working towards is kind of starting to happen for you.

I think there's just quite a stretch where we were trying, we were trying to do all the little things, we were trying to think the right thoughts and say the rights things and do the right things on the ice and it just didn't seem like we could turn that negative energy that we just felt on the ice, so it was nice to get over that hump and to get a good feeling in the locker room. It's just that belief it just comes flooding back and it makes everyone's job easier.

You've been a winner your whole career, how mentally challenging has this season been for you personally?

For myself personally, these last few years have been pretty challenging. You always have a standard in your mind of goals you've set for yourself that you put your mind to and you work towards, and obviously there's a lot of unpredictable things in the game of hockey. It's a team game ultimately. As long as the team is winning, sometimes those goals don't matter as much.

But these last few years, it's been a real learning experience to not necessarily to dial back my expectations but sometimes things happen where you just really need to focus on what's right in front of you and not look at the big picture too much because sometimes that could feel overwhelming, so a lot of challenges personally and as a team and as an organization that were difficult but it definitely helps to put everything into perspective.

Last year when I interviewed you before your 1,000th game, you were talking about how you still want to play but you also want to play at a high level that you know you're capable of playing. Do you feel you're closer to that level this season compared to last year?

Yeah, I'd say I'm closer. It wasn't hard to move past that. I definitely still have that feeling that it's not too much to ask out of myself to get back to that level again with what I know, with what I've learned about myself and the game and how to take care of my body and how to prepare and how to play the game. Obviously the game is a lot faster and it's improved, I would say, but at the same time, I feel like a lot of things for me have gotten better, it's just getting to a place where my body cooperates and things kind of fall into place, so still working towards that at this point.

The expectation is you're going to talk to Kyle and the management group soon. Without getting into specifics, what do you expect those conversations to be like?

Kyle's been nothing but respectful this entire time. A guy in my position, I understand he has a job to do and he's really investing in the future of this franchise and rightfully so in a lot of respects.

For myself, it's just kind of a tricky situation, the last year of my contract and I haven't played my best hockey in some time, so I'm not sure what the opportunities or what's going to come knocking. But there's no doubt in my mind, again, I'm focusing on my game, trying to improve that every single day and trying to enjoy just playing the game, being a Blackhawk as long as I can, for however long that is and while it still lasts.

You've been tied to Patrick Kane throughout your entire career. Does his decision or what he's thinking have any influence on you too? Or are they separate situations in your mind?

I think we're both in very unique situations. I can't speak to his personal wants and wishes and maybe what his family would want for him, and only he can answer that at this point, whether he's willing to do that in front of the camera or not is another thing.

But for myself, it's still a difficult question to answer cause there's a part of myself that still doesn't really want to admit the situation and also wants to continue being a Blackhawk and finish my career here. But at the same time, there's a part of me that sees the writing on the wall and sees that this team, this organization is trying to hit the reset button and that maybe a change for everybody is not such a bad thing, and that goes for myself as well.

How have you compartmentalized the big picture vs. just trying to take it day by day? Do you get distracted by the outside noise?

No, I wouldn't say it's been too distracting. It's hard to even predict for myself what the end of this year, let alone next year could look like, and I think sometimes the dominant thought in your mind changes day to day, so why even worry about that at this point? Like I said, my focus has been on just what's right in front of me for the most part.

Whatever the future does hold, you've been the captain of this team for so long, how have you embraced this mentorship role?

Well, I was really young when they named me captain and it's just a funny thing to think about. There's not a lot of sports where you're wearing a C on your sweater and it's out there for everyone to see.

To a certain degree, there's a lot of ways in which you're under a microscope, not only to the fans and the media but to your own teammates, and I think I was just one of those young kids that took it very seriously and I wanted to do everything in my power to help the team win and I also wanted to be a good captain. I took that pretty seriously on my shoulders.

Obviously I had a lot of help over the years but definitely felt a lot of the pressure with the ups and downs. I think there was some good, some bad there, but it was all a great learning experience and I think when you're under that pressure for a long time you learn a lot about yourself, you go through a lot, so I think I'm definitely thankful for all the experiences that I've had and the teammates that I've had and just the memories of being in that position for this team here in Chicago.

Is it weird to be on the other end of now the young guys are looking up to you? Sixteeen years ago, you were the young guy looking up to the veterans. And how much impact has that helped you in this stage of your career?

Yeah, I guess at this point, it's something you're kind of getting used to of being the older guy. But I think it's always something that you need to remind yourself of, is just the little things that some younger guys pick up on and everyone has their days, everyone has bad days, and you've just got to be mindful and trying to make sure you're watching what you're saying or how you go about your business.

Nothing's ever going to be perfect, but you try your best to keep doing things the right way and making sure that everything that you learned is kind of being handed down because I think that definitely helps a lot in the hockey locker room culture and there's a lot of good things in there as well.

There was a lot of roster turnover, but an important hire was the head coach Luke Richardson. What have you thought of the job he's done?

I think he's been great. I respect him so much as a person, and to come in as a rookie head coach, obviously he's got so much experience in the game but you kind of forget it's this early in his career as a head coach because of just how calm and assured he is.

Sometimes where I feel reactive or getting emotional or reacting over something little that happens on the ice or on the bench and you look over at him and you're wondering if he saw what happened or if he's just calm and collected over it and he just has a way of making everyone settle down and breathe and play the game. Obviously it hasn't been easy with the amount of games that we've won so far but I think he's pretty confident and patient with our progress and it's been a lot of fun to play for him.

Do you feel like he's laid a good culture here as he leads this team through a rebuild?

Yeah, it's just who he is as a person. I've had the chance to talk to a number of players before coming in here that have played with him throughout his career and nothing but amazing things to say about him as a player, so all those things just kind of follow you in and you eventually see why. I think he's just a really good leader and a good person about everything else, and I think he's just shown up demanding that respect but has earned it as well.

Last one: At the beginning of the season, you said you wanted to take this season and soak in every moment. Aside from the wins and losses, have you enjoyed that process?

Absolutely. Even when the feeling's not so good, you've just got to sit there with it and be like, this is part of the game and sometimes it doesn't feel good but it's what makes winning feel even better when you really feel the ups and downs of the roller coaster ride in your career and had some success early on to a point where it almost became the norm and we almost expected it and it just goes to show how good this league is and how difficult it really is to win and you appreciate all that. And either way, there's good in the winning but there's a lot of learning when you're losing as well.

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