Jonathan Toews is early MVP favorite

Updated: December 14, 2011, 10:29 AM ET
By Craig Custance

Before Claude Giroux went down with a concussion, he was starting to carve out a strong case for the Hart Trophy. He still leads the league in points, and he's almost single-handedly helped Philadelphia Flyers fans forget that the team traded two impact centers in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter this summer. His mix of talent and drive helped the Flyers climb to the top of the Eastern Conference without captain Chris Pronger. And now, we don't know when he'll be back on the ice.

It's unfortunate, but it's also cleared a path for Jonathan Toews. The Chicago Blackhawks' captain has 17 goals, just two off NHL leader Milan Michalek. With 32 points, Toews should be able to quickly erase the gap between him and Giroux at the top of the league. He plays a more complete game than Hart contender Phil Kessel and does it on a better team. Suddenly, Toews is the MVP front-runner. With Sidney Crosby again sidelined and Alex Ovechkin working things out, the league spotlight may soon be turning toward the 23-year-old Blackhawks center, who quietly is building a resume as impressive as any superstar's in the league.

I pitched that theory to him Tuesday after Blackhawks practice.