It doesn’t take a sharp hockey mind to appreciate the explosive, electric play of Avalanche guard Cale Makar, who regularly produces outstanding plays by superstar strikers.
But when it comes to his top teammate, Devon Toews, you have to dig into the details to appreciate his play.
The 6-foot-1,191-pound Blueliner is a master at owning the ball and delivering it to the right stores. His defense is efficient and clean. And Toews has shown his knack for being in the right place at the right time.
If a goalkeeper is the team’s most important player, the fourth-year veteran is probably second among the Avs with Makar, fellow superstar Nathan MacKinnon, winger Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabe Landeskog.
“I like it when he’s on the ice,” goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper said of the Toews, who is in his second season with Colorado.
The Toews missed the first nine games of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery – a period that saw the Avs go 4-4-1.
Since then, Colorado is 17-3-2 with the Toews in the lineup as he scored a point in those 16 games. Toews is tied with an NHL-high rating of 26 plus minus and he has yet to produce a minus game all season. He’s also only been assessed two minor penalties despite leading the Avs in average ice time at 25:05.
“He is always in the right position. He always reads right. He is a smart player. He’s so smooth and calm out there,” said Kuemper. “…He is one of those rare people who is good at both ends of the pitch as a defender.”
Toews and Makar form one of the NHL’s best defensive pairings.
The Toews were the league’s top 10 during the frost and were second among all NHL players (behind Makar) in points per game (1.09 to 1.17). If Makar was the favorite mid laner winning the Norris Trophy as the tournament’s best defender, then Toews is the dark horse.
He may not be considered Norris’ material as he does not play as the No 1 midfield player, but there is not a single defender in the league who can surpass Makar for that position.
However, Toews’ measured effective play on the blue line is as believable as it gets.
“It’s not particularly dynamic like Cale can deliver, but it’s just good, smart hockey and it’s done at a certain pace that helps him succeed,” said Avs coach Jared Bednar .
Part of what makes Toews successful is the 27-year-old’s penchant for always preparing and researching his opponents.
“He thinks through the game. It’s part of his preparation – he really understands what the opponent is going to do, what we need to do to be successful, then he goes out and does it in the game. his play and performance,” said Bednar. “As a good skater like him, he has good vision, good hands. Everything you need to be a good player in this league, he has them. ”
Toews played for three years at Quinnipiac University, one of the few NCAA programs to employ him outside of British Columbia. Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said Toews was probably his best player on the Bobcats team that lost the 2016 NCAA championship game to North Dakota to close out the Toews new school year.
Pecknold closely watched Toews being developed for the Bridgeport (Conn.) Nearby by the American Hockey League for 2 and a half seasons before the Islanders finally called him up. Swapping Toews with Avalanche in 2020, Pecknold said, was the best thing that could happen to him at the time. Toews is a restricted freelance worker with a modest salary of $700,000, and the Islanders said they couldn’t afford the inevitable hefty increase. After the transaction, he signed a 4-year, $16.4 million contract (reaching a $4.1 million annual cap) with Avs.
“I think he was really good with the Islanders, but with (Islanders coach Barry) Trotz, one of the better coaches in the NHL in my opinion, Trotz had his veterans. He and Toews are his third type of pairing player,” said Pecknolds. “The trade to Colorado has allowed him to grow. I give Jared Bednar all the credit in the world because he gave Devon a chance – a chance to be a third match guy. Apparently, he’s getting a reward for it now. “
The transaction was completed on October 12, 2020, two days after Toews married Kerry, his lover from Quinnipiac.
Toews was initially quite indifferent about the deal. He’s gone on his first full NHL season and is considered a rising star by the Islanders who have advanced to the 2020 Eastern Conference finals. He doesn’t want to leave New York, and he He’s not excited about going West – despite knowing the Avs are Stanley Cup favorites heading into the shortened 2021 season.
“The trade itself, it’s crazy. We’re still in wedding mode, happy about all of that, and this transaction is a shock to the system,” Toews told The Post. “Obviously it worked. We are pleased with that. But at the time, not too happy about it – just because we were so comfortable.
“My wife’s family is from Jersey, so they’ve always been close. We’ve both been on the East Coast for the past five, six years. So there’s a lot of comfort there. “
Since the trade, Toews has connected well with his Colorado teammates, just as he did at previous stops in his career. He used to pay tribute to Quinnipiac’s former teammate Sam Anas and pay tribute to Anas’ late mother at his wedding. And he brought that love into the Avs dressing room.
“Just a really easygoing, good teammate – someone of value that is really approachable,” said Avs guard Erik Johnson, the team’s most senior player. “He’s only been in his second year here, but he’s a really good fit. Heck of a commercial too. He is very rare, very good. So it was a great find by Joe (Sakic) and his staff and he was a great fit – a really big addition for us. ”
If anyone isn’t surprised, it’s Pecknolds.
Quinnipiac’s coach has long believed that Toews is a longtime player. Advanced analytics like Corsi, which measures ball possession time and your ability to score more goals than you’re allowed to, have shown the defender’s underappreciated value throughout college.
“Devon is a Corsi machine. In his final year, we were #1 nationally for most of the year. We had a great team but Devon was probably our best player,” said Pecknold. “He flies under the radar because he doesn’t come up with huge numbers. It’s like, if he’s on the ice, we have puck. It’s that simple.”
That recipe has also translated quite well into Colorado.
https://www.denverpost.com/2022/01/16/devon-toews-avalanche-understated-star/ Dive into the details. Devon Toews is as important as any Avalanche player – The Denver Post