It’s that time of year again. Playoffs are fast approaching, and talk heats up for the NHL’s regular season awards. The most prestigious of these, is the Hart Trophy. Awarded to the League’s regular season MVP, the Hart symbolizes everything that encompasses a great player; talent, determination, leadership, success.
Jonathan Toews is stranger to none of these. Although this will not be the first time he has been a Hart hopeful, this year might be his best shot in his whole career to take the coveted hardware. Ask him yourself however, and he’ll tell you different. Toews is focused on the team and their success as a whole, not just himself. That humility and selflessness is just one thing that gives him a shot at the Hart this year.
He’s not leading the scoring race, but he sits fifth in goals, and ninth in points. What he does different when compared to all the rest of the players in the league is his work ethic and leadership. As one of the NHL’s elite forwards, Toews possesses enough natural skill to go out each night and be one of the best players on the ice. When he steps out there, he plays that game like it will be his last one. He makes sure that every time he has the puck, you know it, and his incredible vision allows him to make plays no one ever saw coming, not even his team-mates. His line with Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad has been lights-out all season thanks to the play of Toews and the great compliment the veteran and the rookie make on the wings.
No matter what level of hockey you play at, you need to stick to the fundamentals. That’s what wins teams championships, and Toews goes out there and does it each night. He drives the net with the grit of a third-liner, dangles like Patrick Kane, (well, almost like him) and has such good puck protection it mirrors his line-mate Hossa. He’ll break a defenseman’s ankles with the speed that he possesses and goalies have no chance when he gets in all alone. When he knows he can’t make a play himself, he’ll dish the puck to a player you thought was well-guarded. He is among the lowest league-wide in giveaways, but also a leader in time-on-ice among forwards. During one of the Blackhawks’ recent games on NBC, there was a clip about Toews, and how he always gets the goal in front of the net because it bounces off his body. His teammates may laugh and say he’s just there at the right time, but he fights for every inch infront of that net, and it rewards him.
When he’s on the ice, playing well personally is not the only thing he has to worry about. Toews wears the “C” for one of the most storied hockey clubs in the world. He is a leader. If you need any proof, watch an iso-cam of him for a shift or two. When he gets back to the bench, he talks to his team, letting them know what they need to do better, or what they are doing well. Whether in the room, on the bench, or hitting the ice, Toews leads by example. When your Captain is fired up, you’re fired up too. There have been many instances this season where the team has a lackluster start to a period, but Toews is noticeably working hard. Soon, all of the Blackhawks are following suit, and they usually end up scoring a few goals, and winning that game. He makes players ten years his senior take note, which is hard to do as a young leader. Combined with his assistant captains, they form the best leadership group in the NHL.
When you take a look at the Hart Trophy front-runners for this season, you see two; Toews, and Sidney Crosby. Much is alike about these two young superstars: They are captains to their respective teams, dangerous at all ends of the ice, have lots of energy, and are prepared to fight to the end to bring their Hawks and Penguins a victory. The thing that seperates Toews from Crosby is his humility and well-roundedness. Crosby is an offensive firepower, no doubt. He has been out since March 30th, but is still leading the league in points. However, Toews plays a two-way game that is matched by no other, and he is the favourite for the Selke Trophy. Crosby is the world’s best on one third of the ice surface; Toews is the best in all 3.
With all this said, it will come down to the wire between Crosby and Toews. One thing is for sure:
It takes heart to win the Hart, and Jonathan Toews has got it.
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