Joel Quenneville gets a wry smile on his face every time he talks about the virtues of Jonathan Toews.
That's not likely to change any time soon. Toews, 25, is the best player on a Chicago Blackhawks team that has won two Stanley Cup championships in the last four years.
Toews is on a career path that will one day lead the Blackhawks to put a statue of him outside the United Center—just like they did for Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. While each of those legendary stars won one Stanley Cup, Toews has doubled that total as he approaches the prime of his career.
Toews has earned his nickname of Captain Serious. He also earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs and the Frank Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the league last year.
But just what would it take for Toews to win the Hart Trophy as the regular-season MVP? In a league that includes bona fide superstars like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, it will be quite difficult for an all-around star like Toews to eclipse them.
Here's the formula he would have to follow.
Score at 35 least goals
In any given year, it seems reasonable to assume that Sidney Crosby is going to score at least 100 points. When Crosby has been healthy, he has broken the century mark four times.
Crosby scored 56 points in 36 games last year, so there's no reason to think he won't get back to the 100-point level in 2013-14.
Stamkos and Ovechkin are solid bets for at least 50 goals each, and Malkin can pass the 100-point mark as well.
Toews is not that kind of scorer. He scored a career-high 76 points in 2010-11. If he could reach a career-high 85 points, that would be a notable achievement.
He's not going to beat out Crosby in scoring or Stamkos when it comes to putting the puck in the net. But if he could reach 35 goals—he had a career-high 34 in 2008-09—it would show that Toews is an elite offensive player.
Top 5 in Faceoffs
Whenever it's a key point in the game for the Blackhawks, Quenneville is going to look to Toews to take a key faceoff.
He is by far the best faceoff man on the team and one of the best in the NHL. Toews won 59.9 percent of his faceoffs last year, good for third-best among full-time centers in the NHL.
If Toews can stay at that level or improve just a bit, that would go a long way towards making his candidacy for the Hart Trophy that much stronger.
Top 5 in Plus/Minus
Toews is the leader and captain of the Blackhawks because he is as responsible and hard-working in the defensive zone as a star like Crosby is in the offensive zone.
Toews does not take any shortcuts and it shows in his plus/minus rating.
Toews was third overall in the NHL with a plus-28 rating in 2013, and he was the best among the league's centers. He beat out Crosby, Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins for that honor.
He doesn't have to be the best in the league, but if he wants to win MVP honors, he should at least rank in the top five in that category by the end of the regular season.
Canada's Most Consistent Player at the Olympics
The Canadian Olympic team will be loaded with offensive stars. Crosby and Stamkos will be expected to carry much of the offensive load, but don't overlook the importance of an all-around player like Toews in the Olympic effort.
Toews emerged with a fantastic Olympic performance in the 2010 games at Vancouver, scoring one goal and amassing seven assists while finishing plus-nine on the way to Olympic gold.
A player's performance in the Olympics is not supposed to have anything to do with any NHL awards that are handed out. However, if Toews presents himself as the best all-around player during the Olympics, voters will no doubt remember that he trumped superstars with his consistency.
Blackhawks Dominate Again
The Blackhawks started the 2013 season by going 24 games without a regulation loss. They were the best NHL team in the regular season, as they ran away with the Presidents' Trophy before closing out the year with the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks don't have to be quite that good, but they must finish as the first or second seed in the Western Conference if Toews is going to have a legitimate chance at the Hart Trophy
Toews is fighting an uphill battle to win the MVP award. The honor almost always goes to a top scorer. In the last 20 full seasons, only one non-goalie who did not score at least 94 points has won the MVP. That was defenseman Chris Pronger, who scored 62 points for the St. Louis Blues in 1999-2000.
All-around play is heavily valued in the NHL, but it doesn't usually result in an MVP unless it is accompanied by dominance on the scoreboard.
Toews should have a chance to break the mold if he can meet these criteria.
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