Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews

Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, and Jonathan Toews named Selke Trophy finalists; Who wins?


The Selke Trophy is always great for debate year in and year out. Well, except for perhaps the last three years when Pavel Datsyuk was seemingly the runaway favorite and took home the award. Datsyuk will again be a finalist this year but his case is a bit more compelling than in previous seasons. Never mind the intense competition he’ll have for this years honor.

Datsyuk is seeking to win his fourth straight Selke Trophy and while him being a finalist may not seem like a surprise, it kind of is. Datsyuk played in just 56 games this year thanks to injury but clearly his reputation precedes him. Scanning through some of the deeper statistics, you’ll see that this wasn’t just the case of giving the incumbent a shot at protecting his legacy. Datsyuk was 11th in the league in takeaways with 71 despite missing 26 games. Datsyuk wins 54.6% of his faceoffs as well making him a prime candidate for taking and winning defensive zone draws. Datsyuk was also a +11 in plus/minus as well if that’s your kind of thing to judge defensive players. He’s a worthy candidate and while his reputation is certainly a factor here, it’s not as if missing more than a quarter of the season makes him any less capable.

Ryan Kesler is Vancouver’s go-to guy when it comes to matching up against opponents big gun centers, just ask Chicago about that. Kesler was in the NHL’s top 20 in takeaways with 65 and he was a faceoff winning machine winning 57.4% of the draws he took. Kesler’s all round breadth of work is incredible as he was also able to score 41 goals all while being able to help shutdown opposing centers. While we’re not surprised to see a Canuck get nominated, we’re a bit surprised it wasn’t Manny Malhotra getting the nod here. That’s not to take away from what Kesler’s done this year, but if there was a player who exemplified what it was to be a defensive forward, it was Malhotra.

Jonathan Toews’ case for the Selke is built around him being a maven in the faceoff circle and a very sneaky puck thief. Toews wins 56.7% of his draws and he was second in the NHL in takeaways with 93. Only Joe Thornton had more with 114. Toews is a bit of a surprise nominee in that when the talk goes up about the top defending forwards his name doesn’t immediately come to mind. That’s not to say he’s not worthy here, it’s just caught us a bit off guard. His work in the playoffs last season certainly gave us inklings as to his ability there. His regular season résumé this year was certainly impressive enough for the voters but we’re doubting he’s even a real threat to win the award this year.

A pair of names we’re surprised to see left off are Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Islanders forward Frans Nielsen. Both guys have been outstanding in their roles matching up against opposing top lines and in the case of Nielsen he’s done it fearlessly with great results cashing in on shorthanded chances and finding ways to frustrate the daylights out of the league’s top scoring centers.

All that said, who do you like to win the Selke this year? Will Datsyuk make it four in a row? Will Toews shock the world and win his first? Or is it Ryan Kesler’s time to take home the hardware? Let us know in the comments and in our poll to tell us what you think.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
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It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).