Jonathan Toews Has Hart: Making a MVP Case for the Blackhawks Captain
There's been a lot of speculation about who will be the winner of this year's Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's MVP.
The race is wide open, but the leading candidates include: Tim Thomas, Steven Stamkos, Daniel Sedin, Jarome Iginla, Henrik Zetterberg, Pekka Rinne, Keith Yandle, Carey Prince, and Niklas Lidstrom.
There's also names that generally fly under the radar, like Martin St. Louis, Ryan Kesler and even Brad Richards.
Even Sidney Crosby is being considered for Hart Trophy nomination despite missing half the season with a concussion.
But, in my opinion, above all these names stands one: Jonathan Toews.
Now, being a Blackhawks fan and Jonathan Toews being my favorite player I'm obviously a little biased. But Toews is a strong candidate, and I'm going to make a case as to why I think he should win it.
Here's a list of reasons Toews should hold the Hart Memorial Trophy in Vegas this summer.
1. Offensive Production
Since the Hart seems to be irrevocably tied with how many points a player gets, Toews' offensive numbers seem like a logical place to start.
There are people who argue that Toews has only been scoring since January and that you should not win the Hart for only being good for half a season.
But on the contrary, Toews has been producing consistently since the season began. By the end of December Toews had recorded 33 points (15 goals 18 assists) in 38 games, which would have put him on track to score a respectable career high of 72 points.
This isn't including the rate he's been producing at lately.
Since January Toews has played 28 games and recorded 35 points (13 goals 22 assists). Toews currently sits with 68 points (28 goals 40 assists), which is 8th best in the NHL. He's now on track to finish with 82 points, which will destroy his previous career high of 69 points set in the 2008-09 season.
Toews' obviously isn't a 100-point player (yet), but he's been a consistent producer throughout the season and is expected to finish in the top ten in scoring.
If the Hart Trophy is correlated to offensive production, than Toews' name definitely cannot be discounted. He's one of the elite offensive stars in the game today and is perhaps the best player in the NHL right now.
But if we're going strictly by numbers alone, then Toews clearly isn't the strongest candidate.
However, I've never been a fan of judging Hart candidates based strictly on how many points they have. So let's evaluate Toews even further.
2. He's a Multi-Role Player
Toews plays in all situations for his team.
He's been a huge reason the Blackhawks powerplay has been so successful this season. He has nine powerplay goals, second best on his team.
While the Blackhawks penalty kill has struggled this season, Toews is still one of the elite penalty killers and defensive forwards in the NHL. He has a very strong plus/minus of plus-24.
Toews is 6th best in the league in faceoffs at 57.4 percent.
Toews is also a very versatile player able to battle along the boards, play physical, be a net presence and play in a checking role.
Toews is one of those very rare, complete players that can play multiple roles for his team, making him extremely valuable. His versatility and two-way play has helped make the Blackhawks successful in the past and put them in a playoff spot this season.
3. He Makes His Team Better
Toews is one of those players that makes those around him better.
When Troy Brouwer was playing with Toews he had eight points in seven games. Since being demoted to the third line Brouwer has only had three points in 15 games.
Since Patrick Sharp was placed back on the first line, he's had 16 points in 15 games, largely thanks to his chemistry with Toews.
Toews has also woken up Patrick Kane who has 23 points since the All-Star break.
Toews doesn't just make his linemates better, but his teammates too.
Since Toews began his hot streak many have followed in his steps. Marian Hossa has had 17 points in his last 17 games. Dave Bolland has had 14 points in his last 17.
Once Toews started scoring abundantly the entire team has elevated their play and have been getting contributions from all four lines.
This has not been the case for most of the season.
Toews' performance has an evident affect on his team. Earlier in the season whenever he struggled, the team was struggling. Whenever he was playing good, they would follow.
The defense has also taken note of how Toews has been playing and have stepped up. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have fought their way back to the positive side of the plus/minus category and Brian Campbell has stormed into the league's top five.
Rookie goalie Corey Crawford has responded to Toews' success, getting consecutive wins and making his case for the Calder Trophy.
Toews has an undeniable affect on whoever he plays with and on his team in general. It's not a coincidence the Blackhawks started winning once Toews started scoring in bunches.
4. He's an Invaluable Leader
Jonathan Toews is arguably the best captain in the NHL despite being only 22 years old.
Leadership is a very important component of a successful hockey team, and the value of good leaders to their team cannot be overlooked.
On numerous occasions Toews has been vocal in the dressing room and on the ice when his teammates have not been giving the effort he expects of them.
A recent incident occurred during a game on February 21st against the St. Louis Blues in which the Blackhawks found themselves down 2-0 after a horrible first period.
Toews' reaction? Everything short of physical assault.
"For sure, he had a lot to say," said Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland. "He doesn't say a lot, so certainly when he does it means an awful lot."
The Blackhawks responded scoring four goals in the second period and held on to win the game 5-3.
This is precisely what great leaders do. They hold their teammates accountable. They're vocal when something needs to be said.
The measure of a great leader is also how the team responds. I'll let their reaction in that game speak for itself.
Now what would have happened had Toews not given that speech? The Blackhawks probably would have been shutout.
Toews' leadership alone makes him extremely valuable to the Blackhawks.
5. He Has Led the Blackhawks Back into a Playoff Spot
In January the Blackhawks almost seemed totally out of the playoffs. They sat 11th in the Western Conference, and their game was plagued with mediocrity and inconsistency.
Toews changed all that. He decided enough is enough.
Since then he's been more vocal with his team, and his effort on the ice has made him the best player in the league in the second half of the season.
Mostly thanks to Toews and the affect he's had on his teammates, the Blackhawks sit in 4th in the Western Conference and are playing more confidently than they have at any other point in the season.
In my opinion, it's much harder to fight for a playoff spot when you're outside the top eight than it is when you're inside. The Blackhawks have had an uphill battle for most of the season.
The pressure on the Blackhawks, and Toews especially, was enormous this season. And while the Blackhawks haven't fully lived up to those expectations, they have made enormous strides in the second half and have demonstrated they are still one of the league's best teams.
Toews has been the force pushing this team all season, and especially in the past two months. It is because of him the Blackhawks are where they are.
If that's not an MVP I don't know what is.
6. He Deserves the Recognition
Toews has had a marvelous hockey career so far.
He's won five gold medals for Team Canada at various levels, he's won a Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy and is the youngest ever player to become a member of the Triple Gold Club.
He was arguably Team Canada's best forward in the 2010 Winter Olympics and was in fact proclaimed Top Forward, essentially the MVP of the Olympics.
Even at such a young age Toews has accomplished so much, comparable with the likes of Sidney Crosby.
However, Toews is rarely placed in the category of "elite players" in most discussions despite being one of the most complete players in the game.
Toews deserves more recognition from the league for his accomplishments. What better way to reward a player who has won so much for himself and the teams he's played on than with MVP acknowledgement.
Now, of course, I'm not arguing this is the main reason why he deserves the Hart Trophy. There are plenty of players who have accomplished just as much as Toews in their careers and never won the Hart.
But that doesn't mean they did not deserve it.
The league has the unfortunate habit of only acknowledging the highest scoring players and not those who bring their team more than just points.
They forget about players that offer leadership, attitude, determination, experience, great defensive play and desire to win, all things Toews gives his team.
The NHL should cease that habit and this is the perfect year for them to do so. Toews is a highly respected young player who deserves more exposure and recognition as one of hockey's best players.
I wrote an article a little while back about why Jonathan Toews has all the qualities of an MVP. It discusses all the aspects of his game that make him such a valuable player and expand on some of the points I've made in this slideshow. I've attached the link below:
Toews may not be the best player in the league, but his value to his team is perhaps unmatched. His role has expanded every year since he joined the Blackhawks, and he's had his work cut out for him this year.
The Blackhawks have had their fair share of troubles and Jonathan Toews is a huge reason they've been able to weather the storm and fight their way back into a playoff spot.
He has led the way on the ice and made sure the attitude was positive in the dressing room. He's been the player and leader they need him to be.
I'm not saying players like Tim Thomas, Steven Stamkos and the other contenders aren't equally as deserving, however I think Toews has a slight edge.
Thank you for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts and your cases for your favorite Hart candidates.