ANAHEIM — When Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson declared a rebuild in his introductory press conference on March 1, it seemed pretty clear that this was going to be a multiple-year project moving forward.
From Jonathan Toews' perspective, he was excited "to know that this team will have some direction in the next little bit here" but still wasn't quite sure to what level Chicago's rebuild would be.
"I don't know if I really understand what that means yet," Toews said on March 3.
After three pieces (Ryan Carpenter, Brandon Hagel and Marc-Andre Fleury) were traded ahead of Monday's deadline for future assets, the picture is started to crystallize.
After Wednesday's morning skate in Anaheim, Toews opened up about his potential future, the rebuild and much more in a raw and honest interview.
Here's a full transcript of it, which has been lighted edited for brevity and clarity:
What are your thoughts on the trade deadline moves?
I think it's become pretty clear the direction we're heading in as a franchise and I'm not going to lie, it was disheartening to see a couple of your really good friends go, regardless of what's to come in the future. I think this group has been through quite a bit this year, on and off the ice.
Obviously life's been weird, it's been hard for a lot of people but there's a lot of challenges that these guys have kind of grown through as a group and when you kind of cultivate that chemistry and that friendship and that connection with your teammates, I think you want to keep building off of it. So it's definitely a little disheartening to see some key parts of our lineup in our group traded away.
Do you try mapping out in your head how long this rebuild might take and when you will be contenders again?
I mean, my answer hasn't changed. My focus is just to continue to get back to where I know I can take my game. Physically, mentally, I'm getting to a place where I'm enjoying the hard work and the sacrifice it takes to get there and that's all I can really worry about.
Beyond that, there's a lot of things at play that I don't control and ultimately I just want to play great hockey and go out there and kind of show what I'm able to do. It's been a while since I've felt that way.
Does this timeline for the rebuild make you question your future with the Blackhawks?
I wouldn't say it makes me question it as much as, for the longest time, the thought never entered my mind to leave Chicago. And in this case, you can't help but picture yourself and what it'd be like to play for another team and what that experience would bring. That pops into your mind obviously, but again, Chicago's my home, I love the Blackhawks, I love the organization, it's been my family for a long time and I'm not putting the cart before the horse or getting ahead of myself in any way.
Do you still like being captain and the responsibilities that come with it?
There's no doubt some days you want it easy and you want to just say, 'Screw it,' and focus on your own thing. It's just a lot lighter and a lot less responsibility in some ways, but at the same time, I've been given so much for my teammates and the organization and the fans, and everyone's given me so much credit over the years for our success just because I have a C on my sweater, so I think when you're in that position, a lot of responsibility comes with it but you're given quite a bit as well, so I think that's the way I look at it and it's all part of the learning process and you can't shy away from that.
How do you navigate the last 19 games to try maintaining the team's chemistry?
I think for every guy there are a lot of situations where you want to take the shortcut, take the easy way out and say, 'Ah, there's no point in doing it right or doing the hard thing.' I think we're all focusing on what are the hard things, what are the sacrifices, what are the commitments that we have to make regardless of the end result this year? And we've got to commit to doing that. I think that's the way we keep building our culture and our identity as a team in the locker room, and going forward that's going to help us quite a bit.
What are your offseason priorities and what will you be discussing with your agent?
*Laughs* I don't know. I just answered the similar question where I really feel like I can take advantage of the time to rest and to train and to just get my energy and my jump and my strength back on the ice and just take advantage of that and have fun with it and know that there's just a lot of things I've learned these last few years that you can put together. I'm excited to see what I'm capable of doing on the other side of that.
Before the concussion, did you feel like you were getting closer to where you wanted to be?
That was like the thick of the season right there and to be honest with you, I feel like the time off with the injury kind of helped to just take myself out of the mix for a little bit and take a breather and be in the gym, get in a routine, skating every day, working on skills and then also focusing on what you want to do within the system of your team and how you can kind of find some offense within that and I came back feeling pretty confident, feeling pretty good overall.
Do you at least feel like you're in the loop with Davidson on the direction?
Yeah, I think Kyle is sincere. Obviously he's had some tough decisions to make already. I'm looking forward to just being in touch with him on his thought process and what the near future looks like, at least this summer and at the end day, just hear what he thinks about my game. It's always good, it's never easy, but it's always good to hear some honest thoughts from his vantage point and go from there.
What should the identity for the Blackhawks be?
Well I think our work ethic is a big thing. Obviously our record doesn't show very well, but for the most part, we've done a pretty darn good job of giving ourselves a chance to win games, especially against some of the top teams in the league on the road.
I think we know we're never far off if we all show up and we have that work ethic and that consistency, so those are things we've talked about. It just comes down to the little details every single night. You can't just shut it off and forget about it for a period because it's going to hurt you.
You're approaching 1,000 NHL games. Does that have extra meaning, given everything you went through last year?
Yeah, of course. Either way, it's huge. I'm extremely thankful to hit that mark. I definitely owe a lot to all the teammates I've had over the years. It'll be exciting to ... I'm not the kind of guy who likes the whole show during the season. I like to stay with what works and keep it simple, but it'll be nice to have some friends and family in town and really enjoy that and just kind of show everyone that's been around me my appreciation for their support and help me get there, I guess.