It is no secret that the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks took off in the 2007-08 season. What made this season unique was that it was the rookie season for both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. In the 2008 offseason, Kane was named the Calder Trophy winner and Toews was named the youngest captain in the history of the franchise. They won three Stanley Cups together in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
With a star-studded team like the Hawks, it’s tough to determine who their best player is. The debate usually comes down to Kane and Toews. There are plenty of arguments for both sides, and here are some of the highlights.
The Case for Kane
Kane hasn’t slowed down since his rookie season resulted in a Calder Trophy win. He made history in the 2015-16 season when he became the first American-born player to win the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award. With so many achievements under his belt, he is often considered to be the best American-born player in the NHL.
One of his most impressive accomplishments is his 26-game point streak during the 2015-16 season. According to NHL.com:
He crafted a particularly remarkable binge by earning at least one point in 26 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NHL since Mats Sundin of the Quebec Nordiques had a point in 30 straight in 1992-93.
Beginning with the sixth game of the season, on Oct. 17, 2015, Kane was not kept off the scoresheet until Dec. 15. He had 16 goals and 24 assists in those 26 games and shattered (Bobby) Hull’s Blackhawks-record point streak (21 games, set in 1971-72). Kane was the sixth Blackhawks player to win the Ross and first since (Stan) Mikita won his fourth in 1968.
Despite being considered the best American-born player in the league, Kane tends to struggle in international play for Team USA. This serves as a testament that Kane’s leadership skills are not his strong suit. He served as an alternate captain at the 2014 Olympics, where Team USA failed to win a medal. He played the same role at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, where they didn’t win a single game.
Kane leads the Hawks in goals, assists and overall points. He has a shot at winning another Art Ross Trophy and is third overall in points this season behind Boston’s Brad Marchand and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.
The Case for Toews
Although Toews didn’t win the Calder Trophy his rookie year, he became one of the youngest captains in NHL history before the 2008-09 season began. Like Kane, he has continued to make a name for himself throughout his career and has proven to be one of the strongest leaders in the NHL by leading the Hawks to three Stanley Cups. His leadership skills earned him the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2015, and his two-way style of play won him the Selke Trophy in 2013.
The most common argument against Toews is that he doesn’t score enough for a player of his caliber. This argument is easily refutable.
Mark Lazerus of The Chicago Sun-Times says it best:
If Jonathan Toews really wanted to, he could make a run at the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. He’s got the offensive skills to create scoring chances, he has the vision to dole out goals from behind the opposing net, and he has the grit to fight for and finish off the greasy goals. If he wanted more points, he could get more points.
Of course, the irony is, that would actually make him less valuable to the Blackhawks.
Toews also shines on the international stage for Team Canada. Prior to his NHL career, he won gold in the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championships. He also took home the gold at the 2007 World Championships. He served as alternate captain in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, bringing home the gold both times. He did the same at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Despite a rocky start to this season, Toews remains one of the top players on the Hawks. He currently stands in third place on the team in overall points, with 18 goals and 32 assists. The two players ahead of him are Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.
Both players have their strengths and weaknesses. Kane outshines Toews in scoring, and Toews outshines Kane when it comes to leadership. The debate ultimately comes down to what the individual believes to be the most important aspect of the game.
If someone believes that scoring is the most important aspect of the game, Kane wins. If it’s leadership, Toews wins…and the Hawks are ultimately successful because of both Kane and Toews. In the end, it all comes down to personal opinion. The question of which player is stronger perplexes many a Blackhawks fans. In the end, I believe that a well-rounded player is more important to the game, so I believe that Toews is the stronger player of the two.