Toews drew a fighting major for just the third time in his six-year NHL career Friday night in Chicago's 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Like most of you, I was a little shocked and more than a little uneasy as Toews cross-checked Sharks captain Joe Thornton and goaded the larger man into dropping the gloves.
The late-first-period bout was not a particularly smart move in terms of winning or losing the game, nor did Tazer turn in a very effective performance. It was not a decision meant to inspire teammates. None of the other 'Hawks benefited from the altercation, unless you count the padding of Chicago's penalty-kill rating.
Toews risked injury at the hands of a opponent who has made it a point of pestering him whenever the 'Hawks and Sharks meet. He very well could have taken himself out of action for a long period of time.
What motivated Toews to engage Thornton? In his mind, it may have been as simple as standing up to a bully.
Most of us have had to deal with bullies in some shape or form in the course of our lives. In some cases, the only way to bring the situation to a close is direct confrontation. That's just the way it is.
Toews has had a solid start to his season after missing a big chunk of the end of 2011-12 to a concussion. The hit that could very well have been the root of Toews' problems last spring may have come via Thornton just over a year ago.
Thornton has made it a point over the years to resort to cheap-shotting Toews in response to his superior skill. Perhaps this is Toews' declaration that he is tired of such behavior.
This wasn't an attempt to fire up the troops. Chicago came out with plenty of fire and had numerous chances to score early. The 'Hawks handled a Sharks club that has now lost seven straight games, even with Toews taking nine minutes of penalties.
I'm not in the head of Jonathan Toews, but his explanation to Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com seems to provide a glimpse:
I think the last handful of games, including last season, was always some stuff going on whether it’s after the whistles or during the play. I guess it comes down to players that are maybe trying to get under your skin and test you a little bit. I figured at some point I had to stand up for myself. It came down to that, I guess.
What Toews did wasn't calculated to inspire. It wasn't conductive to his long-term health. It certainly wasn't the smart play on the ice and could in fact be termed selfish.
It was, however, a personal decision for which a nod of respect should be given.