Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks are two of the most dynamic young forwards in the NHL.
At 23 and 22 years of age, respectively, they have each accomplished a lot in their careers. They have two Stanley Cups between them and are two of the NHL's youngest captains. They are also fan favorites on their teams and have helped their franchises go from laughingstock to competitive.
But which one has a greater effect on their teammates? Who has been a bigger factor in taking their team to the promised land? Who is most missed when he goes down with an injury?
In this slideshow, I will attempt to answer those questions and more.
We'll get started with a relatively obvious point.
Crosby was drafted by the Penguins in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He started with the Penguins the following season and is in his sixth NHL year.
Toews was drafted by the Hawks in 2006. After being drafted, he played another year of college hockey at North Dakota, where he helped his team reach the Frozen Four for the second straight year. He joined the Blackhawks prior to the 2007-08 season. This is his fourth NHL season.
Crosby was appointed an alternate captain for the Penguins in his rookie year. He served in that capacity until after the 2006-07 campaign, when he was appointed to captain. He took the place of Penguins legend Mario Lemieux and became the new face of the Penguins.
Last season, Crosby won the Mark Messier Leadership Award. The award, named for the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers star, is given to the player who displays the best leadership skills both on and off the ice.
Like Crosby, Toews wore an "A" in his rookie year. He took over the captaincy prior to the 2008-09 season and is currently the youngest active captain in the NHL. He accepted the captaincy that previously belonged to Martin Lapointe.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and team management have praised Toews as being a player who encourages his teammates to get better and never gives up.
"We don't want him to change at all." Quenneville said in a 2009 interview.
Edge: Even, but if I had to pick, a slight edge would go to Crosby, as he is the current Messier Leadership Award holder.
Crosby has posted four 100-point seasons in his career and won the 2007 Art Ross Trophy after posting 120 points. He also holds the Penguins' record for points by a rookie after tallying 102 points in his 2005-06 rookie year.
Last year, he shared the Rocket Richard Trophy with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos as he put up 51 goals. He also finished second in the NHL in scoring last year with 109 points.
Despite being out of the lineup with a concussion, he is third in the NHL with 66 points in 41 games.
Toews had 54 points in his rookie year and was nominated for the Calder Trophy for outstanding rookie. Although he lost to teammate Patrick Kane, he improved in 2008-09 with 69 points. He had 68 points last season and has 45 points so far this year. He is a consistent scorer.
Crosby has 572 career points, while Toews has 236 career points.
Crosby has a career plus/minus rating of plus-65 and has set a career high in the category with a plus-20 rating this season.
He plays on a Pittsburgh team that is ranked fourth with a team plus/minus rating of plus-28. Pittsburgh also allows only 2.22 goals per game, which is ranked second in the NHL.
Toews has a plus-66 rating with a career high plus-22, which he achieved last season. However, Chicago has struggled on defense this year. They are ranked 29th with a team plus-12 rating and allow 2.79 goals per game.
However, the Penguins and Blackhawks are almost equal in the shots against category. Pittsburgh surrenders 28.6 shots per game; the Blackhawks allow the opposing team 28.7 shots.
Edge: This is another difficult decision. However, Toews has slightly better defensive statistics despite playing around worse defense than Crosby. The Blackhawks captain gets the advantage.
Over the course of his career, Crosby has posted 65 power-play goals and three shorthanded goals. He currently has 10 power-play goals.
This year, Crosby has averaged 5:25 of ice time on the power play in each game.
However, when the Penguins are on the penalty kill, he is used much less. He averages 28 seconds of ice time shorthanded and has been on the ice for less than 20 minutes in the Pens' shorthanded situations this year.
Toews has 35 power-play goals and two shorthanded goals in his four NHL seasons. This year, he has seven power-play goals. He is averaging 3:07 of ice time on the Blackhawks' man advantage.
He is used more than Crosby on the penalty kill, averaging 2:04 when the Hawks are penalized.
Crosby plays on a Pittsburgh team that has the top penalty kill in the NHL at 88.9 percent. However, the power play has been a struggle for Pittsburgh in recent years. It is currently ranked 15th in the NHL at 17.5 percent.
Chicago is struggling on the penalty kill this year and do not surrender a power-play goal just 78.2 percent of the time. However, they have the first ranked power play at 24.9 percent.
Edge: Even. Both Toews and Crosby are on teams where one special team is good and another struggles.
But again, if you forced me to pick, I would say Crosby. He is extremely efficient on the power play.
Crosby has 82 playoff points in four Stanley Cup playoff appearances. He helped the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009. In those 13 Finals games, he has nine points and a minus-two rating.
The Penguins missed the playoffs in Crosby's first season. They went to the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2007, where they were eliminated in five games by the Ottawa Senators. Last season, they were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Hawks also missed the playoffs in Toews' first season. They made a run to the Western Conference Finals, but the much more experienced Detroit Red Wings ousted them in five games. Last year, they defeated the Nashville Predators, the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks to win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
Toews has 42 playoff points in his career. In the 2010 Finals, he posted three points and had a minus-five rating.
Edge: Toews. While he has been in a Blackhawks uniform, Chicago ended an extremely long Cup drought and have not been eliminated earlier than the third round.
Crosby and Toews have already experienced some injury problems in their careers, forcing their respective teams to carry on without them.
Crosby is currently out of the Penguins' lineup with a concussion. In that time, the Penguins are 8-4-1. He has also missed time in earlier seasons with an ankle sprain and groin in knee injuries.
However, Pittsburgh has marched on. In Crosby's first six seasons, they are 31-12-5 when he is out of the lineup.
The Blackhawks have struggled a little more without Toews. He has not missed as much time as Crosby in his career. But when he is absent, it shows. The Hawks are 8-11-5 from 2007 until now when their captain is injured.
Edge: Toews. He is a huge part of the Blackhawks, and the Pens have more depth to keep racking up wins when Crosby is on the sidelines.
As a Penguins fan, I am obviously not trying to take anything away from Crosby. He is a very skilled player and will have a legacy that will rival those of some of the game's greatest players.
However, Toews has really been a big part of making hockey relevant in Chicago again. Although the Blackhawks missed the playoffs in 2008, he got an entire city rooting for them as they took on their fiercest rivals in the Red Wings. He not only won the Stanley Cup last year; he also took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Toews is also a slightly better all-around player than Crosby. Crosby is more of a power forward, while Toews has a stronger defensive aspect to his game.
Do you think this is the right call, or do you think Sidney Crosby is more valuable to the Pittsburgh Penguins?
Let me know!