Barring a late-season surge, the Blackhawks appear destined to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. It’s been a pretty remarkable run of success in Chicago — three Stanley Cups and conference finals trips on two other occasions — but there are a lot of factors behind the precipitous decline this year. Marian Hossa had his career come to a bizarre end. Corey Crawford has been injured. Some of the Blackhawks' top players have gotten older. Their attempt to put the band back together has not gone as planned with Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp struggling to make a significant impact. And there’s another elephant in the room that really hasn’t been addressed much: The simple fact that some of Chicago's top players have performed below expectations. Most specifically, captain Jonathan Toews. Toews is in the middle of what will be, by a pretty significant margin, the worst offensive season of his career. The reunion with Saad has not produced the results the Blackhawks anticipated, and he has simply not been an elite center, at least as far as his production is concerned. It’s a touchy subject to bring up because Toews is so revered around the NHL as an elite player. He’s a Stanley Cup champion, a Conn Smythe winner, an Olympic Gold medalist and, for a few years, was regarded as not only one of the best players in the world, but depending on who you asked, perhaps even the best. Following the 2013-14 season, the Blackhawks signed him and Patrick Kane, the foundation of their resurgence and mini-dynasty era, to matching eight-year contracts that paid them each more than $10 million per season. I can’t blame the Blackhawks for those investments because at the time it was the right thing to do. It was going to make building a team around them more difficult, but you still need those high-level players to win. You keep the superstars and find ways to make it work around them. At the time the Blackhawks signed Toews to that contract, he was one of the elite players in the NHL.