PITTSBURGH — There’s a pretty common parlor game in hockey circles, particularly in the national and Canadian media — a debate that’s raged in newspapers, on TV and in bars across North American and Sochi, Russia.
If you were starting a team right now, would you rather have Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews? Would you take Crosby’s otherworldly talents, or Toews’ unrivaled combination of skill, defense and leadership?
Crosby is the face of the NHL, by far the league’s biggest star. But the answer comes up Toews more than a casual observer might think. He’s got that kind of respect in the hockey world.
Toews isn’t buying it, though.
“Yeah, I don’t know how much truth you can put to that,” Toews told the Sun-Times on Wednesday, a couple of hours before squaring off against Crosby for just the third time in their illustrious careers. “Considering what he’s done? In this league, in this day and age, it’s nothing short of incredible. The hype that he had coming in, and how he’s been able to sustain the performance that he has every single year, the amount of points he puts up — there’s really no one like him. I don’t even know how there’s a comparison there.”
Toews and Crosby met for the first time at Soldier Field on March 1 last year, injuries and the lockout-shortened season keeping them apart. But they won Olympic gold together in Vancouver and Sochi, and have come to know each other well.
While Toews demurs at the idea that he’s at the same level as Crosby, he relishes the challenge of playing against him.
“For sure,” he said. “He’s a guy that you love to measure yourself against. Like with other top players in the league, I always look to see what they do well and how they do it and try to learn from that. I haven’t had the chance to play against him too much. So I’m just going to try and come up on the winning side, I guess.”
On the ice, he meant. Not in those bar-room debates.
“Somehow, if people see any truth to that idea, that I’m even mentioned in the same sentence, I’ll take it as a huge credit,” Toews said. “But I’m not going to believe any of the smoke that’s being blown around.”