It is not easy to be a Chicago Blackhawks fan right now. It is not easy to be a sports fan in general, especially when the regular season is six months long, a roller coaster of ups and downs is inevitable. The Blackhawks are currently going through a rough patch, and being so close to the playoffs isn’t making it any easier.
The season began with eyes on the prize — another Stanley Cup. No team has won two Stanley Cups in a row since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. The Blackhawks came close in 2014 but lost the Western Conference Final to the Los Angeles Kings. The loss was devastating, since the Cup was so close, and Chicago bounced back by winning the Cup in 2015. Nobody wants to experience the disappointment of 2014 again, and that is why all Blackhawks fans are in freak-out mode.
I am a fan of looking on the bright side, so I decided to find something to smile about. I think one thing all Blackhawks fans should remember that our team has Jonathan Toews, the best captain in the NHL by miles, and here are my top five reasons (in no particular order) why.
1. He's a team player.
Shortly after Toews' third Stanley Cup win, famed Blackhawks reporter for Chicago Sun Times Mark Lazerus argued that "Jonathan Toews' value goes beyond the scoresheet." He opens with a statement that is tough to refute, "If Jonathan Toews really wanted to, he could make a run at the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. He’s got the offensive skills to create scoring chances, he has the vision to dole out goals from behind the opposing net, and he has the grit to fight for and finish off the greasy goals. If he wanted more points, he could get more points. Of course, the irony is, that would actually make him less valuable to the Blackhawks." When it comes to the argument over who the best NHL captain is, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is often neck in neck with Toews for the top spot. The easiest argument in Crosby's favor is that he has won the Hart Trophy twice. Lazerus is right, Toews is fully capable of winning the Hart, but is considered valuable and a great captain due to his team-first mentality, which is proven successful in his three Stanley Cups. Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban agrees, “He just does what the coaching staff and the organization need him to do. And that makes a player special, because it’s a difficult thing to do. It’s a team-oriented skill that you need to have. It can’t be overlooked. And I think he’s a team-first guy and it shows, it shows in his play.”
2. He is well respected and a class act.
Toews is not only one of the most respected athletes in the NHL, but arguably in the world. Ask a fan of a rival team to give a reason as to why he is not likable, and I guarantee you they won't have a word to say. The most negative comment you will see on a YouTube video of him is along the lines of, "I want to hate him but I can't." When someone dedicates so much time to charities relating to children and not trash-talking rival players. A perfect example of this is when Toews had the perfect opportunity to talk smack about Crosby at the 2013 Blackhawks Convention, but did this instead.
Even when put on the spot with the perfect opportunity to talk down to someone, he chooses to take the high road. The feeling seems to be mutual among other captains, like division rival Dallas Stars' captain Jamie Benn, when Lazerus asked him what he thought made Toews a special player, he said, “It’s just the way he goes about his game. The compete [level] is outstanding. He plays a 200-foot game. He’s one of the best defensive forwards in the league. He pretty much does everything so well; that’s what makes him so special. It’s hard to play against a guy like that. It starts in the face-off dot, and he plays hard for 60 minutes every game, and his teammates follow him.” If you are respected among some of your biggest rivals, you have to be doing something right.
3. He is one of the most successful players in the league, despite his age.
At 22, Toews had an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship, two World Junior Championships, one Stanley Cup and one Conn Smythe trophy. Most athletes do not have this many awards at the end of their career, and this was just the beginning for Toews, and it still is. Since then he has added another Olympic gold medal, two more Stanley Cups, a Selke trophy, Mark Messier Leadership Award and ESPY for Best NHL Player to his long list of achievements (keep in mind that he is only 27 years old). He is on the road to being a hall of famer, and if he keeps up his record he will be among elite names such as Wayne Gretsky and Mario Lemieux. Steve Yzerman, Toews' childhood idol (with whom he shares #19) claims that Toews is "just a better hockey player" than him, even in his prime.
4. He is one of the most skilled players in the NHL.
I can still remember seeing Toews play in person back when I was in high school and being absolutely amazed. It was so much better to watch in person than on TV, and I decided that he was my favorite. To this day, that has not changed, and I take pride in my judgement. Rival players even agree that his skill level is incomparable, as Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang puts, “He does everything well on the ice. He’s a good offensive player, but he’s good on draws; he’s good defensively; he’s responsible. Usually, you can take a chance against a guy that plays only one side of the ice and think he’s not going to come back. He’s always back. He always wants to help his defensemen.” Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeren agrees, “The way that he’s won in all the levels he’s played and his consistency on the ice and just his work ethic and the way that he competes is definitely something that we should all look at and try to implement that into your game. He’s definitely a great player, and I have a lot of respect for him.”
5. He led his team to three Stanley Cups in six years.
This is the easiest argument to make, but also the most effective. I have seen the same argument used to shut down LeBron James fans when they argue that Michael Jordan is no longer the greatest basketball player of all time (only with six rings instead of three) countless times, and it works every time. Toews has never won the Hart, which can be used as one of the strongest arguments against him, but the Hart Trophy reflects only the player himself, where the Stanley Cup reflects an entire team. For a captain, a Stanley Cup can be seen as more valuable because it is about the entire team, and Toews is a team first player after all. Even Kris Letang believes Toews is "pretty happy with his three Stanley Cups instead of three Hart trophies."
And honestly, who can blame him? Here is to many more Cups to come.