As he hoists his third Cup in six years, Jonathon Toews has cemented his place as one of the best hockey players of all time. No one doubts his peer, Sidney Crosby also belongs on that list. However, if you asked even the most casual of NHL fans you might be hard pressed to find someone who would take Captain Canada over Captain Serious. How can this be? How could you take Toews over goal scoring machine Crosby? The answer is pretty clear for three reasons:
1) 3 – 1 – Toews has three rings and seems to be a huge threat to win nearly every single year. Crosby made back to back cups and won one…then seems to have fallen off the playoff map. In hockey, the best players almost always win Stanley Cups – even Ray Bourque hoisted one with Colorado – but Crosby, arguably one of the five best players ever only had one. Gretzky has 4, Lemieuex has 2, Sakic has 2, Mark Messier has 6 for crying out loud! Amazingly Crosby does not even seem too threatening to return to glory. Toews and the Blackhawks meanwhile could easily have won last year if they had come out on top in their 7 game war with LA. Now they have settle for being a dynasty…without back to back titles. Ho hum.
2) Toews gets better when it matters most – Since 2011 I have hated playing against Toews. He always and I mean always scores when it matters most. He is the most dangerous player in the world in a big game and you would want him on your team no matter what. I would trade my draft pick for a decade and half my team and Chicago hangs up the phone first. Unreal. Crosby too gets better when it matters most but in the playoffs he has struggled to get the most out of his guys. Toews rarely seems to have the same problem. in fact, like Lemieux or Gretz, Toews has managed to keep alpha dog status despite playing on a team with perennial MVP candidate Patrick Kane and Norris contender Duncan Keith. Just saying.
3) Crosby is an awesome regular season player but so is Toews – For his career Crosby averages 1.3 ppg, which is an insane 80’s style number. Like Wilt Chamberlain he has video game stats. They are mind boggling in an era of defensive hockey and schemes designed to neutralize scoring. Like Bill Russell, Toews can play two ways, might be the best defensive forward in the league and kills himself to win. He scores too, just under 1ppg and leads the aforementioned team by holding himself to a ruthless standard and then expecting his teammates to do the same. Keep in mind that Chicago holds the record for most consecutive wins in a season (from 2012) and has been a Western Conference threat since 2008 in a particularly brutal era of competition. Again, Chicago and LA have won 5 of the last 6 Cups! Unreal.
So, like Chamberlain and Russell before them it goes Russell then Wilt and Toews…then Crosby.