The NHL announced this morning that Chicago Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews, is a finalist for the 2013 Mark Messier Leadership Award for his excellent leadership qualities in the Blackhawks locker room.
The NHL first released this award following the 2006-2007 NHL season. The trophy is awarded to “the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season.”
The process of winning this award is less complicated than most other trophies awarded by the NHL. Throughout the season, Mark Messier gathers input from NHL fans and NHL personnel to help his decision process, but ultimately Messier hand picks the three finalists and eventually the winner of the trophy to his consent.
Last week, the NHL announced that Jonathan Toews is a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, giving Toews two nominations in 2013. Only Marty St. Louis (2) and Sidney Crosby (3) have had two or more nominations this year.
ADDED LEADERSHIP — It’s not a coincidence that the Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award in the same year that Jonathan Toews is recognized as a finalist for the Mark Messier Award, and the Blackhawks ended up as the best team in the NHL regular season. The combination of coach and captain is probably the most important aspect of any hockey team. The Messier Award may be a new addition to the NHL, but years from now the correlation between the Messier and the Jack Adams Award will be prominent amongst finalists.
LOCKOUT LEADER — Toews cemented his leadership qualities prior to the season even starting, considering he was the driving force behind gathering the team to prepare for the season together during the lockout. He practically coached the team until the players decided to hire Kenny McCudden to help keep them organized, so that they could focus on playing rather than drawing up drills and playing “shinny hockey.”
NO STAT FOR THAT — There is no individual stat that determines leadership, but you can take team accomplishments into consideration. The Chicago Blackhawks organization had a record flirting start to the regular-season and they finished with the best record by a long shot. The consistency the team displayed was remarkable in every aspect. Consider this: The Blackhawks would have finished a full season with nearly 132 points (the 1976-1977 Montreal Canadiens hold the record at 132 points) if you prorate the numbers. Even though the Blackhawks dominated the rest of the NHL to start the season, the mantra in the locker room remained level-headed, never getting ahead of themselves, and the players were focused on one thing: Winning.
THE INJURY CLAUSE — Yes, there is no arguing the fact that the Ottawa Senators had a fantastic season without stars such as Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Craig Anderson for long stretches of the season. Daniel Alfredsson did a remarkable job alongside Paul MacLean to keep the team focused and push the club into the playoffs. But, it’s not as if the Blackhawks were exempt from injury either. Key players such as Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland, Michal Rozsival, Ray Emery, and Corey Crawford all missed stretches of the season (at one point, almost all of them were out) and Chicago just kept hammering out the wins to remain at the top of the league. Although they were more fortunate than the Senators in that regard, it’s quite clear that the Blackhawks fought through that adversity and keep a consistent effort night after night no matter who was in the lineup.
BOTTOM LINE — Jonathan Toews was able to elevate his team to another level that was almost record-breaking. Spectacular seasons don’t come around very often, and that type of success has to be attributed to a solid foundation of leadership. While Daniel Alfredsson and Dustin Brown deserve recognition for their efforts, I truly believe that Toews is among the cream of the crop this year. This is the one piece of individual hardware that I can’t see going to anyone else.