Joel Quenneville is perhaps the most envied coach in the NHL.
No bench boss has the plethora of stars and superstars at his disposal as the Blackhawks' mustachioed leader.
On any given night, Quenneville knows that Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook or Corey Crawford can play well enough to carry the team on their respective shoulders.
Captain Serious is the nickname Toews has carried for years, and it's obvious why he has earned it. When other young players were living the good life and enjoying the perks of their high-paying careers, Toews' expression seemingly never changed. He was interested just one thing—winning—and that meant putting in the work to get better on an everyday basis.
That's Toews' philosophy and it has paid off in a huge way. Toews has captained two Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2010 and 2013, and he has also been perhaps the most vital member of Canada's Olympic team in 2010 and 2014. Both of those teams earned gold medals.
Toews may be the best all-around player in the game. While he does not compare to Sidney Crosby when it comes to scoring or all-around offensive ability, he appears to have the edge on the Penguins' superstar when it comes to defensive skill, toughness, ability in the faceoff circle and leadership.
That last one may sting Crosby and his supporters since Sid the Kid was the captain of Canada's Olympic hockey team. Yet there was Toews, standing in the hallway, high-fiving and encouraging every player on that team as they would leave the ice after each period in Sochi.
"You get these opportunities and you just try and seize every one of them," Toews told Canadian Press hockey writer Stephen Whyno after winning the gold medal in Sochi. "It’s a great team that we had in this tournament. It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of a team like that whether your role was big or small."
Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons recently declared Toews to be Crosby's equal.
"Time was Crosby stood alone as the Canadian face of hockey," Simmons wrote. "He still does, points-wise. But in my mind, there is now a 1 and 1a in Canadian hockey, to use the Randy Carlyle terminology. You can have 1. I’ll take 1a.
"And I’ll count up my championship rings and medals later."
Toews can do it all on the ice, but he will go through long stretches where his goal scoring is not up to par. For the season, Toews has scored 22 goals and 59 points in 63 games. Those numbers don't land him in the league's top 10 scorers.
Toews is certainly a good scorer, but it is quite clear he takes the other areas of the game as seriously as putting the puck in the net.
However, it looks like Toews may be starting to surge when it comes to his goal scoring. He scored the game-winning goal for Canada in the gold medal game against Sweden in the Olympics. He was held off the scoresheet in the Blackhawks' first game back from the Olympic break at New York against the Rangers, but he lit up the Penguins at snowy Soldier Field in the 5-1 Stadium Series victory over the Penguins when he scored two goals and added an assist.
Three goals in two games does not a hot streak make, but Toews is skating quite well and he looks to be going toward the net a bit more than he was in the games prior to the Olympics.
Not only is this the right time of year for any superstar to step up, but it's a necessity for Toews and the Blackhawks.
The team is learning that the 2013-14 season is a far cry from the team's record-setting performance last year. Instead of running away from the rest of the league, the Blackhawks are looking up at the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division and also find themselves trailing the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference.
Earlier in the season, Kane was one of the hottest players in the league and was challenging Crosby for scoring honors. That's no longer the case. Also, with Hossa on the sidelines, the Blackhawks need a player who will score big goals at key moments.
Toews has done that in the past and he seems ready to do that again. Toews stepped up for the Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against Boston. With the Bruins holding a 2-1 lead and playing at home, they were in a position to seize control of the series. Toews refused to allow that to happen, as he scored a key goal and played 23 minutes, 43 seconds in the Chicago victory.
Toews added a goal and three assists in the final two games as the Blackhawks brought home the Stanley Cup.
He knows when to step up and assert himself. That time is now for the Blackhawks, and it looks like Toews is ready to go on a hot streak that could carry the team to another deep Stanley Cup run.
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