It’s no mistake we left the Jonathan Toews’ Player Preview for last. He is the straw that stirs the proverbial drink; he’s the captain; and he’s the undisputed leader of the Western Conference finalist Blackhawks.
And, God, are we glad these are finished. Bring on the hockey.
Today’s game against HC Davos – where John and Fork played three seasons together in the ’90s – in Zurich will apparently be viewable on NHL.com. It may be a good day to pull your groin getting out of the office chair, and just go home.
It’s rare in sports today that such an offensively productive player – 69 points in 82 games last season in this example – is more often praised for his intangibles than his production, but such is the case for the Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews.
Sure, Toews scored 34 goals in his most recent campaign, his 12-game goal scoring drought to begin the season notwithstanding; sure, he had 24 in his rookie year; sure, he’s added over 30 assists in each of his first two seasons.
What seems to be more important, though, is the intangible effect he’s had on Blackhawk hockey. From Red Wings’ bench boss Mike Babcock praising Toews every chance he got last year to the 5-10-2 record posted by the Hawks while Toews was on the shelf during the ’07-’08 term, Toews’ importance seems difficult to overstate.
Rarely is it pretty – his goal against Colorado two seasons ago not included – but Toews constantly finds ways to make positive contributions. His board work is second to none; his will is better than his board work; and he has a knack for scoring big goals, even just by being in the right place at the right time.
Perhaps Toews’ most memorable evening last season was his four three-goal performance at the UC on February 27th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toews notched a hat trick on the night the fans received Blackhawk construction helmets, which were appropriately thrown on to the ice by the dozens following his third goal. Even after his third goal was controversially overturned, Toews scored another, once again welcoming a shower of construction hats to the ice. The Hawks eventually lost the game when uber-superstar Evgeni Malkin scored in overtime.
Toews added seven goals and six assists (13 points) during the Hawks’ 17-game playoff run.
Toews’ 2009-’10 will be a success if…
He becomes an elite offensive player. Toews has undoubtedly had productive offensive seasons in each of his first two NHL campaigns, but there’s more in the tank for the 21-year old. He upped his goal total by 10 last season, even while having to wait until his 13th game to score his first of the season. Toews has the potential to be a 50/50 game changer and with questions abound at the center position entering this season, perhaps it’s time he takes another significant step forward offensively.
He finds a way to compare favorably with other elite centers on elite teams. He’s absolutely a tireless worker, but for the Hawks to be a legitimate Cup contender, Toews has to be one-half of the Hawk center picture that must compare to Crosby/Malkin, Datsyuk/Zetterberg, Richards/Carter, Getzlaf/Koivu. Can he be? This season? With Bolland?
Toews’ 2009-’10 will be a disappointment if…
Um, he becomes un-Toews-like? Listen, Toews’ work ethic and knack for contributing when it matters serve as dynamic proxies when he struggles to get on the score sheet. Sometimes the pressure he puts on himself is visible from the 300-level and he struggles because of it. But, barring injury, so long as Toews remembers he’s the Hawks’ captain and leader, it’s hard to imagine a “disappointing” season for the young Hawk.