I think the one who's truly inderrated around here is Patrice Bergeron. He's better defensively than either of them while providing a decent enough amount of offence, yet rarely is he ever mentionned in the top centers polls, while Datsyuk and Toews usually round out the top 5.
I don't think he is much better, he is slightly better still in my opinion.
Agreed. But to answer the OP, body control and instinct. Toews, like Zetterberg, is a fantastically developed student of the game with incredible skills to match. Still... they lack the "feel" Datsyuk (and Crosby) have for the game, imo, and lack as much of the ability to change everything from body position to direction in the blink of an eye in mid-play - seemingly on instinctual drive. Like Crosby, and more so than the other two guys, he seems to pull off stuff in the tightest of spaces or windows of time that just isn't/can't be taught/practised regularly.
Sticking with the comparison, I'd say that Toews and Zetterberg are both just as good as directing where the puck moves around the ice. But there's a slight observable difference, though, imo, between how the puck seems to follow them around the ice compared to Crosby/Datsyuk (who seem, more than the other two, able to get to where the puck is going before it gets there).
To answer the question as honestly as I can, I don't think you can really label him just one or two things. He does so many things well. If I had to put one label on him though I'd call him "the most complete forward of his era."
Please note that most complete doesn't necessarily equate to the best.
- Extremely skilled puck handler
- Very good vision
- Very good passer
- Unique creativity with and without the puck
- Good shot
- Great on faceoffs
- Elite defensive game
- Elite on puck battles
- Great along the boards
- Elite strength on puck
- Can play the physical game
(led Detroit forwards in hits in 08 Cup)
- Rarely takes penalties
These traits combined allow him to consistently tilt the ice despite playing against top opposition.
Hawks fan here... I liked the analogy that Dats is like Toews but with Kaner's hands... This allows him to be much more creative offensively than Toews. Which is not to say Toews couldn't do those things, Dats is just better at them.
However the comparison for me is more like Dats >= Toews, not Dats >>>>>>>>>>Toews like some make it out to be.