Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter scrunched his face as only he can and pondered the question: Who is the Blackhawks' most valuable player, Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane?
It's an important question considering the Hawks have the best record in the NHL at 33-5-4 and many Hart Trophy candidates come from the top team.
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Going by the pure definition of the award, most valuable to his team, it would have to be Toews, who leads the Hawks in goals with 21, is just 3 points behind Kane with 44, has 4 game-winning goals, kills penalties on one of the league's top penalty-killing units and basically never takes a night off.
"Jonathan impacts their locker room, maybe more so than his on-ice performance," Sutter said. "Just what he brings them.
"Kane is obviously having a great year whatever the reason, maturity or whatever. You can see it in his on-ice presence. He's a more controlled player and you haven't even touched his skill set yet."
While Kane helped carry the Hawks early during their record 21-0-3 start and has been dominating in some games, Toews makes the team go with his tireless play. He is plus-27 for the season, the best plus-minus ratio on the team by 10, and good for third-best in the NHL before Thursday's games.
"Other than what I think of our guy, he's the best captain in hockey," Sutter said flat out. "Think about it, he's already raised the Stanley Cup, so he's got it. Everything he does presents himself as the ultimate player. He is the consummate player."
In a TSN poll of Western Conference coaches, Toews was the near-unanimous choice as MVP as well as Selke Trophy favorite. The Selke goes annually to the best defensive forward.
TSN contacted head coaches and asked them to pick one winner and one runner-up in each of six award categories. There were only two requirements: Choose only players in their own conference and do not pick anyone on their own team.
Toews was the overwhelming choice for Hart Trophy consideration in the West. The only other player in the West remotely close to Toews was Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf, with Kane and Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky getting mentions.
At one point it was believed the Hart was a forgone conclusion with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby a lock for the award. But Crosby hasn't played since March 30 because of a broken jaw. While he still might win it, having appeared in all but 12 of the Penguins' 48 games by the time the season is over, the race has been thrown wide open.
Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who led the league with 28 goals heading into Thursday's action, and the Islanders' John Tavares are also strong candidates.
Asking Hawks coach Joel Quenneville what he thinks about the Hart Trophy race is like having him choose between two of his sons.
"I think Toews and Kaner have had years that deserve that kind of recognition and honor," Quenneville said. "Their consistency and contributions offensively, defensively and team wise has been fun to watch. That's helped us have a lot of fun this year and a lot of success as well."
Neither Toews nor Kane wants any part of the discussion, saying they are simply happy to be part of the discussion.
"I don't know who's talking about that," Toews said. "We still have some things we want to accomplish as a team."
With less than two weeks left in the regular season, the talk is only going to pick up.
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