The Adjusted Frank J. Selke Trophy Nominees

By Alexander Monaghan
President of NHL Hot Stove

After yesterday’s Frank J. Selke Trophy nominees were announced, Kent Wilson of Houses of the Hockey decided to write about why Chicago Blackhawks captain should not have been a candidate for the best defensive forward in the League. While Wilson explains that Toews is a fine player, and came second to only Joe Thornton in takeaways, he was was sheltered by his coach in offensive zone starts and although he faced a high quality of competition, he should not have been considered for an award which should strictly honor defensive players.

Over the years, this award has evolved from the better or best defensive forwards to the superstars who are relied on in all situations. This is why Pavel Datsyuk and Ryan Kesler have been nominated for the last three consecutive seasons and why Datsyuk looks to win it for the fourth straight year.

Photo Credit: Flickr / RangerRick

Arguing that either player should not be nominated would question the decision making for the majority of the post-lockout seasons. Outside of Datsyuk winning from 2007-2008 through his current reign, only Rod Brind’Amour won the award in the ‘new’ NHL.

Our purpose here is to look at who else deserved the accolade and who realistically should be the third man to be nominated.

Wilson bases his critique of Toews on where a player regularly starts his shift and who they regularly play against. Going by the initial criteria we find ourselves with a good amount of third and fourth line centers. While most of these guys do the dirty work for their team every night, they actually fail to meet the new criteria since they rarely find the back of the net and generally are not employed to do so. We need a guy who can put up Datsyuk-like points while playing this part of the game which gives us a very short list of nominees. The leaders in defensive-zone starts in no particular order were Manny Malhotra, Blair Betts, Zenon Kenopka, Adam Burish, Steve Ott, Raffi Torres, Jared Smithson, John Madden, Samuel Pahlsson, Dave Bolland, Eric Nystrom, Jannick Hansen, Vernon Fiddler and Fernando Pisani.

Despite their hard work you can probably scratch Hansen and Torres from the list since they flanked Malhotra all year, and by default Malhotra was the man in that situation. What are you left with now? A bunch of muckers and grinders, none of which topped 20 goals with Bolland leading the pack with 15. This criteria simply does not meet what is generally required in winning the award although if healthy all season Bolland should very well have gotten a nomination.

Moving on, we get to take a look at the quality of competition.

Here, Jonathan Toews does fit in as he placed in the top 10 along with teammate Bolland, fellow nominee Datsyuk and Patrick Marleau, Henrik Zetterberg, Joe Thornton, Ryan Callahan, Brian Rolston, Alex Burrows and Brandon Dubinsky. Every one of  these players essentially fit the criteria from a scoring perspective as they essentially score and play big minutes. But why does Toews get the vote over the rest?

Likely because of a non-advanced statistic. With every sport there lies some give and some take and Toews did a good amount of take with very little give. Toews finished second in the League in takeaways with 93, second to only Thornton. So why does he get it over Big Joe? Likely because he only gave away the puck 30 times over his 80 games played. By comparison, Thornton coughed up the disc 93 times. In addition Toews took the second most faceoffs in the League with only Kesler winning with a better percentage in the top 10. Furthermore, only Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal and Jason Spezza took a greater percentage of the team’s total faceoffs, which impresses in both the defensive and offensive zone.

We here at NHL Hot Stove understand that the criteria for the award is flawed. We miss the days when the nominees were Brind’Amour, Pahlsson and Jay Pandolfo. Nevertheless, the rules have changed and right now it seems like Toews fits right in with Kesler and Datsyuk. By definition the Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. Its first winner was Bob Gainey, who totalled a whopping 15 goals in only 66 games that season. Somehow the criteria, like the NHL, has changed from then to now but since 2007, the League has at least been consistent in requiring a star player to make the cut every season.

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