Heading into the 2011-12 season, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews already boasts a resume that many would consider worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Toews’ long list of accolades include being the third youngest captain in league history, being named best forward at the 2010 Olympics, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Stanley Cup, as well as becoming the youngest member of the elite Triple Gold Club.
And still, at just 23 it would appear that there’s still another level he can reach. With a work ethic like Toews has, it seems only a matter of time before we’re talking about him as being mentioned as one of the top few players in the entire NHL.
Like most of the team, 2010-11 got off to a slow start for Toews. He notched just nine points in the first month of the season, but began to turn it on shortly after with a four-point performance against Atlanta and a hat trick vs. Edmonton, both coming in November.
His best stretch of the season began in late January, carried all through February, and all the way into late March. From January 25th to March 24th (27 games) Toews registered at least one point in 21 games. Among those 21, Toews posted at least two points in 13 of them.
A matchup with Ryan Kesler in the postseason quieted Toews, as the two essentially cancelled each other out, but a supreme effort in the waning minutes of Game 7 led to this beauty of a goal to force overtime, with Toews and the team already on exhasuted legs, as they were for the entire series.
Of course, the game of Jonathan Toews goes far beyond his offensive numbers. He’s one of the game’s best two-way forwards and a wizard in the faceoff circle. He took more faceoffs than anyone in the entire NHL last season and still ranked at the top of the league in win percentage.
Both his skill at the faceoff dot and his ability to shut down opposing forwards were recognized when Toews, along with Kesler and Pavel Datsyuk, was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league’s best two-way forward.
In a way, the Blackhawks losing in the first round against the Cancucks could turn out to be a good thing. Aside from having a longer summer to heal up and get fresh for the upcoming season, the Blackhawks came so close to knocking off the President’s Trophy winners after a 3-0 deficit, as battered and exhausted as they were. That should instill a fire within the team to begin with.
But we know what Toews brings to the ice, not only physically, but mentally as well. No matter who the Hawks take the ice against, Toews is going to make sure that he puts in more work in those 60 minutes than anyone else on the ice. Night in and night out, you can expect Captain Serious to leave it all out there.
It’s hard to find a player more valuable to his team in all aspects of the game than Toews is to the Chicago Blackhawks. Not only is he the top line center at full strength, giving opposing teams a headache both offensively and defensively, but he’s also the top center on both the penalty kill and the power play.
A long summer and improvements to the roster should benefit Toews greatly. If the supporting cast is as improved as advertised, we could see Toews’ point totals increase up into the 80s very easily. If he can play an entire season anywhere near the level at which he played the second half of last season, it’s going to be extremely tough to keep that Hart Trophy away from Jonathan Toews this season.