By Daniel I. Dorfman–
There is a special athlete at United Center. He has lifted his team around him and seemingly single handedly led them through a rough period and has them in position for an exciting final few weeks of the season. His quiet, humble demeanor belies a fierce competitive streak that we wish all athletes shared.
But in this case I’m not talking about Derrick Rose.
Nothing against Rose of course, who should be crowned the NBA’s MVP this spring. No, this is about a city very lucky to have one Jonathan Toews.
Chicago has seen leaders on its sports teams from time to time. Among today’s rosters the names of Paul Konerko and Brian Urlacher come immediately to mind. But there just seems to be something off the charts with Toews, who is still more than a month away from his 23rd birthday.
We all know what he did in 2010, leading Canada to the Gold Medal in the Olympics before winning the Conn Smythe for MVP in the playoffs as the Blackhawks captured their first Stanley Cup Championship in 49 years.
Yet it is hard not to be taken further aback by what he has done this season as he tries to navigate the Hawks into the Western Conference playoffs despite the roster depletion and injuries that now include the team’s leading scorer, Patrick Sharp.
It is not only Toews leads with his mouth such as when he called out his teammates during an intermission of a February game in St. Louis or last week when he said his team “crapped the bed” in an ugly 5-0 loss to Dallas. His teammates have nicknamed him “Captain Serious” but they all seem to respect him and at least on the surface, there is no appearance of resentment. Perhaps it is the way he backs up his words with his actions.
In the mold of a true leader, with the ‘Hawks scrambling to get one of the last playoff slots, Toews has been relentless. In the last 14 games, he has 11 goals including two game winners on is way to piling up 21 points overall and only twice has he had a negative +/-. Wednesday night as fans received his Bobblehead, he had two assists (his 24th multi point game of the season) in the ‘Hawks 4-0 win over Florida, the first of what will likely be pretty much all must-win games of these last two weeks if the ‘Hawks want to make the playoffs. As Rose collects his MVP, Toews just might be adding a Hart Trophy for the NHL’s MVP to his sizable collection of hardware.
“He reminds me of me a little bit,” said Stan Mikita, the ‘Hawk hero of the 1960s who now serves as a team ambassador. “He hates to lose and I had a big feeling that I didn’t like to lose.”
Also, there are not just the points Toews has produced but the way he stands up for his fellow ‘Hawks on the ice, even if on occasion he dressed them down in the locker room.
“You don’t see too many captains jumping into the middle of the fray,” Mikita marveled. “If you are screwing around with my team you have to go through me first, that is the attitude he has. He has come to the rescue of a lot of his teammates.”
The ‘Hawks championship reign may come to an end April 10. There are eight games left with three against Detroit and the injuries to Sharp and Dave Bolland aren’t doing the team any favors so just making the playoffs may not happen. If things work out that way, it would be a shame for many reasons. But the main one being Chicago fans will be deprived of that many more opportunities to enjoy the play and the marvel in the leadership of Jonathan Toews.
Do you agree with Daniel? Post your comments below.
Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.