Team Canada’s Offense Will Once Again Operate Through Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews
When Team Canada named Sidney Crosby its Captain before the 2014 Winter Olympics, there were certainly no surprises coming from anyone in the hockey world. After all, the game’s biggest star deserves the honor based on name and performance alone, Stanley Cup Championship victory not aside.
And as both players and media descend upon Sochi, it is clear that Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews is certainly humble and worthy of the captaincy himself. Soon, it became clear Crosby asked Toews for his blessing in becoming the team’s Captain. However, once again, Toews will prove to be the most successful member of Team Canada, regardless of his position on the second line.
Toews was not even in the top six in 2010, but nonetheless led the team with one goal, seven assists and a team-best +9 rating. Toews averaged an assist per game, the quintessential center, and came into his own during the tournament. Two Stanley Cup’s and a gold medal later, and Captain Serious is ready to embrace a larger role, on the ice and in the locker room.
“It’s crazy to come into that position so quickly,” Toews said of wearing an “A” on his Olympic uniform according to ESPN.com. “But I’m here, and I’m going to use that experience to my advantage. I’ve got to do what I can to make sure I’m ready and make sure we’re ready as a team. We can’t waste a shift, we can’t waste a period, we have to get better as the tournament goes along.”
Flanking Toews will be Blackhawks teammate Patrick Sharp and New York Rangers sniper Rick Nash. Having the advantage of a left- and right-handed shot on either board only benefits the already massive spacing Sochi’s wide ice will allow. That coupled with Nash’s size, Sharp’s tenacity and Toews’s playmaking ability creates an absolutely lethal line, even by Team Canada’s standards.
Defensively, Team Canada struggled its last time making an appearance on large ice, something Mike Babcock is looking to avoid by massive preparation. This is where Toews is likely to shine, aside from the stat sheet. He is a general, defensive stalwart and it reflects in his top 20 +/- rating and top 10 corsi rating (zone adjusted, even strength, 300 minutes played).
While Crosby has his work cut out for him on Canada’s top line, Toews can once again lead Team Canada, even without the C on his sweater. The cliché goes that big-time players make big-time plays, but if Team Canada performs to their peak potential, the situations won’t even require heroics such as overtime goals. Simply put, Team Canada is that good.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486.