Red Wings coach Mike Babcock got to know Jonathan Toews when he coached the Blackhawks captain in the 2010 Olympics and came away impressed with the person as well as the player.
“How tough he is mentally, how every day he is, what a great person he is, that’s what makes him the conscious of this team and the captain that he is and the person that he is,” Babcock said. “He’s a very, very good player and he does things right. He’s a heavy guy who knows how to play. I like him a lot. His determination and his will are a lot like (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk.”
After getting snubbed in voting for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player, Toews on Wednesday was named one of the three finalists for the Selke Trophy, which goes to the league’s top defensive forward.
Toews was voted one of the three finalists by the Professional Hockey Writers Association along with Detroit’s Datsyuk and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron.
“It’s a good feeling, for sure,” Toews said. “For a while it was Kaner (Patrick Kane) and I being mentioned in the Hart conversation. I don’t think you get to the point without great teammates and a great team behind you, and the same goes for this.
“It’s definitely an honor and something special. You look at the other two players nominated and it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence with those two guys.”
Babcock also coached Bergeron in the Vancouver Olympics.
“I’ve had the good fortune to coach all three and they’re good, good men,” Babcock said. “They play with and without the puck and they help you win at playoff time.”
Toews had 23 goals, 48 points and was plus-28 this season. Datsyuk had 49 points and was plus-21 while Bergeron was plus-24. Toews and Datsyuk also were among the league leaders in takeaways.
“He’s a good two-way forward player,” Datsyuk said of Toews.
Of Datsyuk, Toews said: “It doesn’t matter where the puck is or where you are, you have to be aware of him. He can come out of nowhere to steal the puck from you and make a play, and the next thing you know it’s in your net. He’s as skilled as they come on both sides of the puck. You have to go out there and try to outwork him on every shift.”
Toews thanked his teammates with making the Selke nomination possible.
“I think a few other guys in this room deserve some recognition, too,” Toews said. “You need a good group of guys to be in that position.”
Rookie left wing Brandon Saad has had a great seat to watch what Toews can do at both ends of the ice.
“It’s well deserved,” Saad said. “He can win a lot of awards the way he plays. It’s good for him and exciting for everyone.
“He’s unbelievable. You see him on TV and things like that, but getting to be around him every day is something special, especially me being a young guy getting to learn from a guy like that.”
Toews said he takes pride in playing strong defense.
“It’s been a big part of my game, to be that guy who is solid at both ends of the rink,” Toews said.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.