The argument as to who the best player in the world is, has been going on since the beginning of time. (Or so it seems.) In the 1950s, the debate was between Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard. In the 1980s the Wayne Gretzky vs. Mario Lemieux argument was raged in many a pub across the land. As recently as 2010, the latest instalment of the best player in the world discussion, centred around Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin. With Ovechkin quickly fading out of the spotlight, many observers are saying the stage belongs to Crosby and Crosby alone. But what about Jonathan Toews?
The Chicago Blackhawks centre has started the 2013 season very strongly, leading the Hawks to the best record in the NHL, after the first two weeks of the season. Yes the season is still young, but no one can’t ignore the impact Toews is having on the ice for Chicago.
The stats don’t tell the story. Toews is behind Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp in team scoring, recording 4 goals and 3 assists in 9 games. Its his all-around game that impresses me the most. He’s on the power play, kills penalties, takes important faceoffs in both ends of the ice, is superb defensively and most importantly, Toews is the unquestioned leader of the Chicago Blackhawks.
In fact, before Toews was sidelined due to post-concussion syndrome last season, the University of North Dakota product was considered a leading candidate for the Hart Trophy, as the league’s MVP. The Blackhawks record without Toews, was a respectable 12-5-4, but to a man, the players agreed that the team was missing that intangible only Toews brings.
Let us not forget the magical year Toews had in 2010. At the Olympics in Vancouver, Toews was named the best forward in the tournament, and could have easily been named tournament MVP. He scored the opening goal in Canada’s thrilling gold medal victory, over the United States. He was even better in the playoffs the following spring. Toews led the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, with 7 goals and 22 assists, while picking up the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. (For the record, Crosby did not win the Conn Smythe when Pittsburgh won the Cup in 2009.)
So why isn’t Toews given more consideration as the best player in the world? Couple of reasons. First, he’s never had a 50 goal or 100 point season. Stat geeks love to point this fact out. Don’t get me wrong, stats are important, but they don’t tell the entire story. Stats don’t tell how much of a leader Toews is, or his impact in the locker room. His presence alone, earns a certain respect with teammates and opponents alike. Secondly, Toews doesn’t have the benefit of a true superstar alongside him. Whereas Crosby as Evgeni Malkin riding shotgun, Toews doesn’t have anyone is equal on the Hawks. Kane, Hossa and Sharp are all excellent players. And yes, Hossa is quietly growing into a superstar, but can you call any of those players superstars or leaders? There is no doubt Malkin is a superstar and is just as much of a leader in the Pens locker room as Crosby. They do make an outstanding tag team. Toews doesn’t have quite that player yet to ride shotgun.
This won’t end the debate. And yes, there is plenty of good arguments as to why Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world. But don’t discount Winnipeg’s own Jonathan Toews. Especially if he leads the Blackhawks to their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
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