Jonathan Toews already has plenty of hardware and achievements to his name. Nobody in NHL history has played fewer games before becoming a captain than Toews. At just 26-years-old, he has already won two Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals, and ought to have more coming his way. The list goes on and on. His favorite award might be the Conn Smythe Trophy he took home at age 22, given to the most valuable player throughout the playoffs. Does he have what it takes to win the regular season equivalent?
It may sound obvious, but taking home a Hart Trophy is pretty tough. Sidney Crosby is usually good for around 100 points a season if he’s healthy, while Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin are capable of scoring 50-60 goals. Voters tend to stick with the top scorers, too. Every forward that has taken home the Hart in this century has finished in the top three in the
Art Ross race for the league lead in points. Toews’ best statistical season came back in 2010-11, when he finished with 76 points, good enough for 11th in the league. He finished sixth in the Hart voting that year. His best finish in the Hart race was fourth, which came in the strike shortened 2012-13 season in which he accrued 48 points in 47 games. He has the weapons to put up points, but maybe it’s just not his style.
Too Much Help?
The Hart Trophy is given to the player that is deemed most valuable to his team. With so many great players surrounding Toews, is he really the most valuable to his team on any given year? It’s pretty fair to assume the Blackhawks would still be a solid team if Toews wasn’t on it. Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Brent Seabrook would be a terrific nucleus of players regardless of Toews’ presence.
Meanwhile, there are some teams that truly rely on only one or two key players. Without John Tavares, the Islanders are nothing. Without Ovechkin, the Capitals have nobody to put the puck home. Without Toews, the Blackhawks…are worse at faceoffs? Drop in possession statistics? MVP awards are usually viewed upon differently from voter to voter and sport to sport. In hockey, it’s possible that Toews is just on too deep of a team to get the votes for this award.
Best Player in the NHL?
Maybe he’s not the most important to his team’s success, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be the best player in the league. The Hockey News slated him third, behind Crosby and a surging Drew Doughty, noting his need for offensive improvement in order to become number one. Toews is likely reluctant to risk his defensive prowess in order to get a few more points and he shouldn’t be blamed for that. He has finished in the top five for the Selke Award as the league’s best defensive forward four out of the past five seasons, winning in 2012-13. Crosby has finished in the top 20 only twice, despite his two Hart Trophies.
In an ESPN survey among players, coaches, and executives, Toews was chosen as the best franchise player, slightly edging out Crosby. Hey, how could he not be? Toews has captained two teams to Stanley Cups in seven seasons while Crosby has one cup in nine seasons. Crosby even has a fellow Hart trophy winner in Evgeni Malkin to help him.
Maybe Toews doesn’t want a trophy because he would rather win. Guys like Toews and Patrice Bergeron could probably pad their stats and get more attention for the Hart, but they realize that going for the risky scoring chance might hurt their team in the long run. I don’t doubt that he can improve on his statistics this season though and put up 80+ points for the first time in his career. He might not win the Hart, but Toews may establish himself as the best player in the NHL.
Has contributed to isportsweb, the Yawkey Way Report, and Fansided’s Chowder and Champions. Host of the weekly radio show Top Shelf Sports on Bryant University’s WJMF radio.