The NHL on Monday announced the finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, and to no one’s surprise, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was among the three nominees.
Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings and Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators joined the 26-year-old Toews as finalists.
Previous winners of the award have included some of the league’s most notable captains, including Sidney Crosby in 2010 and Zdeno Chara in 2011. Last year’s winner, Shane Doan, captained the Phoenix Coyotes to their first divisional title in team history and led them to their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
As with most NHL awards, this is a hard one to handicap, because the vote has gone in so many different directions in the past. When Crosby won his, it was a year after the Penguins had won the Stanley Cup title, and when Chara won his, it was the year that the Bruins won the title. Also, Doan and Jarome Iginla won the award in seasons in which they did not win a title, but did lead their teams into the playoffs.
For this season, the winner based solely on statistics would be Toews, but bigger forces may be at play here. The award voters could conceivably go with the logic of rewarding Brown for the Kings’ improbable title run last year, or they could go with Alfredsson because of the way he helped the Senators to stay in the playoff race despite the rash of injuries that the team suffered.
Ultimately, it will be Toews’ captaincy of the best regular season team in hockey that will be his strongest card in the voting for the award, so it will be interesting to see whether or not that will overcome the other candidates’ qualifications.