Leading up to Wednesday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins — on the ice and off the ice.
I can think of numerous instances in which I would vastly prefer having Jonathan Toews as my team captain to Zdeno Chara. In games where overseriousness is a plus, Toews would be a boon. In some sort of team staring competition -- say, a boys vs. girls game of "Honey, if you love me, won't you please smile?"-- the uncrackable Jonathan Toews is my captain, hands down.
Similarly, Zdeno Chara is my captain, without hesitation, in several situations. Off the top of my head: water polo in the shallow end of a pool.
But when it comes to hockey, where these gentlemen serve as captains of the two Stanley Cup finalists, it's a tougher call. They're both fantastic hockey players, each among the best at what he does in the world. Both have already proven that they can captain a Stanley Cup squad. And if we're being honest, leadership is extraordinarily difficult to measure, let alone compare.
Yet that's precisely what we're here to do. So which Conference champion is led into battle by the superior captain?
Amazingly, there were some in Boston advocating that Zdeno Chara be stripped of the captaincy earlier this postseason. When Chara opted not to speak to the media prior to Game 7 of the first round versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, James Murphy said it was time to give the C to Patrice Bergeron.
"Not surprised Chara wasn't one of Bruins to address media prior to Game 7," he tweeted. "Not acting like captain on and off ice."
It's true that Chara, much like the several of the NHL's captains who grew up speaking a different language than the journalists looking to mine a national story from the stuff he says, isn't the chattiest of captains. But thankfully, his teammates don't draw inspiration from how well he shoots the breeze with ESPN analysts. They draw inspiration from the other stuff he does, like play incredible hockey and keep himself nude photo fit.
We turn to Stanley Cup of Chowder for more:
Taking fitness to the extreme, solidifying the back end, shutting down opposing scorers, and coming up with huge efforts when it matters most. And that's all supposed to be null and void because he's not quick with a quip?
Chara is an excellent teammate, a terrific defenseman, and a fantastic captain.
Pretty much. For further evidence, consider that Chara has just led the Bruins to their second Stanley Cup Final in three years. That was quite captainly of him.
We all know precisely what kind of captain Jonathan Toews is, along with what kind of sleeper, ice cream orderer, and hat-wearer he is: the intense kind. This dude takes his captaincy the way he takes his steak: seriously.
Toews has been lauded for his leadership since he arrived in the league. Hell, he enters this series nominated for a leadership award, and deservedly so. The Blackhawks' captain since 2008, Toews does everything you want a captain to do: he plays extraordinary two-way hockey, backchecking, scoring, fighting, grimacing, and working his tail off shift after shift. He's a complete hockey player, which means, as examples go, there's something for everybody.
If there's a knock against Toews, it's that he can be too intense. We saw it at times against Detroit, when his frustration boiled over and he took some silly penalties. But saying someone is too intense is like answering "I work too hard" when you're asked about your biggest flaw in a job interview. Better than that the alternative.
Again, leadership is an intangible. It's nigh impossible to get a handle on it, let alone juxtapose it with someone else's. But Jonathan Toews is basically a paragon of it, so we'll give him the slight edge.
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