Smooth As Selke


Annually, as the National Hockey League recognizes its top players across the league with hardware that can be placed on their mantles, the same debate is discussed and brooded over by tons of sports writers, bloggers and fans alike.

Those fortunate enough to be a part of the NHLPWA get to vote on some of these prestigious awards with some even meaning cash bonuses to the recipient if he had the foresight to hire a good enough agent to have a clause drawn up in their contract.

At EyesOnIsles we will be looking at all of the major awards over the next couple of weeks, breaking down the finalists and giving you who we think the winner could be as well as our own personal choice if we had the privilege of voting.

Today, we take a look at the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the “National Hockey League forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.”

Previous Five Winners

Here Are The Nominees

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit Red Wings, 6th nomination, 3-time winner

47 GP – 15 G – 34 A – 49 Pts – +21

Pavel Datsyuk is an outstanding offensive talent, but it’s his all-around game that makes him one of the most impressive players of his generation. At 34-years-old, Pavel continues to impress. His 56 takeaways were tied for the best in the NHL. His +21 rating through 47 games was the best on the Red Wings. He also won 55% of his face-offs this season, including a 62.5% success-rate on the penalty-kill (75-for-120).

Datsyuk’s all-around play was vital to a Detroit team that had lost Nicklas Lidstrom, who was considered to be irreplaceable, to retirement. In Detroit’s first season in twenty years without Lidstrom on their blue-line, Detroit only allowed 2.29 goals-per-game, their stingiest performance since their Stanley Cup winning season in 2007-08.

Every year, two finalists and Pavel Datsyuk are announced for the Frank J. Selke Trophy. Datsyuk and Selke have become synonymous, as Pavel’s latest nomination is his sixth straight for the annual award, surpassing the streaks of Montreal’s Guy Carbonneau (1986-90) and Bob Gainey (1978-82) as the longest since the award was introduced in 1978.

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks, 2nd Nomination

47 GP – 23 G – 25 A – 48 Pts – +28

The leader of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews has earned his first Selke nomination since he was named a finalist at the end of the 2010-11 campaign. The 25-year-old shared the NHL-lead in takeaways with Pavel Datsyuk (56 takeaways) while posting a career-high +28 rating. His +/- was ranked third in the NHL, only behind Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In the face-off circle, Toews finished second in the NHL, winning 59.9% of his 933 draws.  Toews won 64.8% of his shorthanded face-offs (35-for-54), and added two goals while on the penalty kill.

The Chicago Blackhawks finished the 48-game season with the league’s 3rd-best penalty-kill, and #1 uncharitable defense. With only 102 goals against, Chicago allowed the fewest goals in the NHL. Toews’ hustle in all three zones helped make it happen.

Mandatory Credit: Michael Ivins-USA TODAY Sports

Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins, 2nd Nomination, 1-time Winner

42 GP – 10 G – 22 A – 32 Pts – +24

Patrice Bergeron is one of the best all-around players in the world. Last year’s Selke Trophy winner, Bergeron picked up right where he left off. Although Bergeron was nowhere near the other two finalists in takeaways (Bergeron finished with 23), Bergeron’s face-off percentage, and play on the penalty kill gives him a chance to repeat.

Patrice Bergeron led the NHL in face-off percentage, winning 62.1 % of his battles on the face-off dot, as the Bruins’ defense ranked 6th in the NHL (2.21 goals-against per game).

On the penalty-kill, Bergeron averaged 2:12 per game. That total actually shadows his power-play average of 2:10 per game. The Bruins finished the 2013 season with the 4th-most efficient penalty-kill in the NHL (87.1%).

Bergeron’s two-way play helped him achieve a +24 rating, despite missing six games during the regular season. Bergeron has a shot to win the Selke Trophy for the second season in a row, the first time that would happen since Datsyuk won it three years straight from 2008-to-2010.

Eyes Selection

It’s a tough call, and I’m not just saying. Each player has a case of his own. For the 2013 season, though, I have to go with Patrice Bergeron.

His face-off percentage is unbelievable, but the deciding factor was the fact that Patrice was on the ice for just 17 goals against, 13 of them at even strength. In comparison, Pavel Datsyuk was on the ice for 30 goals against, and Jonathan Toews was on the ice for 29 goals against..

I expect Bergeron to reign as the league’s best defensive forward for another season.