The Blackhawks opened training camp on Monday at Fifth Third Arena and there was a notable absence: Jonathan Toews.
The Blackhawks captain released a statement one week ago, saying he will be out indefinitely with an unidentified illness. And his presence was certainly missed on Day 1 of camp.
"Hopefully we have him back soon, and if not, I think all of us told him just to make sure he’s OK before that happens," Patrick Kane said. "He’s obviously in the back of our minds and we’re thinking about him. It doesn’t really feel like a team without Jonny as your captain. We definitely miss him but he’s got to take care of this first."
Toews is as invaluable as it gets on the Blackhawks. He plays in all situations, whether it's at even strength or on the top power-play and penalty-kill units, and is often tasked with shutting down the opponent's top line.
No one player can replace what No. 19 brings to the table.
"That was a hard hit to us, but we've got to work through it," Alex DeBrincat said. "Obviously, he’s one of our best players, our captain, so it's definitely tough not having him here. But at the same time, we still have a season to start and we’re hoping he gets back soon."
The Blackhawks have no choice but to move forward without their leader, at least for the time being. When he's ready to return, the team will welcome him with open arms.
But until then, it will take a committee approach from the Blackhawks to make up for the loss of Toews.
"He’s a big part of this game, a big part of the organization," Kane said. "He’s been our captain for a long time. He’s, no question, our biggest leader so we’ll miss him for sure. That’s just the way it is, what are you going to do?
"I think, for us, it’s a situation where someone else is going to get a chance to step up and play some big minutes and play a big role. It’s a chance for us to come together as a team and take a step forward. Like I said, we’ll miss him. It’s going to be tough to do it without him but that’s just the situation we’re in."