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

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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.

Canucks announce Travis Green as new head coach

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The Vancouver Canucks made it official today, announcing Travis Green as their new head coach.

Green replaces Willie Desjardins, who was fired after three seasons on the job.

The past four years, Green has been the head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Utica.

“Travis is a talented head coach who’s played a key role in the development of our young players through four seasons with the Comets,” said GM Jim Benning in a statement. “He has an intense desire to win and build a team identity that is hardworking, responsible on both ends of the ice and competitive. He has an excellent understanding of where we are as an organization and we’re confident in his ability to help build our team and develop a winning culture.”

Green, a former forward who played over 1,000 NHL games including the playoffs, will take over a transitioning Vancouver roster. He was hired in large part to develop the club’s young players.

“You need young players, and you need them to play,” Green said in an interview with the Canucks’ website.

Of course, the need for youth in the lineup doesn’t mean Green will be gifting anything to anyone.

“I expect a lot out of my players,” he said. “I’m demanding. Expectations will be high. But players want that. They want to be held accountable. There’s going to be a lot of communication between myself and the players. I believe in it. I want them to trust me. I want the best for my players.”

It’s going to be a tough job for Green, who’s never coached in the NHL. While the Canucks do have some promising youngsters, they still need to accumulate more as they move on from the Sedin era.

“I want to start to develop a culture that breeds winning,” said Green. “You know, that’s a process. That takes some time. But that starts today.”

No names, but Sabres have ‘put a lot of work’ into GM and coach searches

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There have been plenty of candidates floated for the vacant head coach and general manager gigs in Buffalo. Ownership won’t say who they are, but it definitely sounds like some have already been contacted.

“We’re keeping it under wraps,” Kim Pegula said on Wednesday, per WGR 550 radio. “But we definitely have put a lot of work in this week.”

It’s been six days since the Sabres made sweeping changes by firing head coach Dan Bylsma and GM Tim Murray, capping off a tumultuous period which began with reports of Jack Eichel not wanting to sign a contract extension this summer if Bylsma remained the bench boss.

Since then, a number of replacement names have surfaced. We’ll focus here on the GM position given. By all logic the Sabres will first hire a GM, who will then have a say in hiring the head coach.

By all logic, of course.

Dean Lombardi, who won a pair of Stanley Cups in Los Angeles before being dismissed in an equally massive housecleaning, has been rumored as a candidate. But Lombardi’s replacement in L.A., Rob Blake, said he’s yet to be contacted by any clubs requesting an interview.

Some have suggested Buffalo could dive into its history, and bring back a former player in an executive role. This is why former Sabres captain Chris Drury has come up so often. Drury, 40, has risen up the management ranks quickly in recent years, and currently serves as Rangers GM Jeff Gorton’s assistant (Drury is also putting together the Team USA entry for the upcoming World Hockey Championships).

In that vein, former Buffalo coach and GM Rick Dudley has also been floated, as has Jason Botterill. Botterill, who played three years with the Sabres organization, is the associate GM in Pittsburgh and widely regarded as one of the brightest up-and-coming execs in the league.

If the Sabres opt to take a different tact, and look for “new blood,” Sportsnet’s John Shannon ran down a list of candidates:

Other names worth adding? Bill Zito, the assistant GM in Columbus, and Norm Maciver, the assistant GM in Chicago.

Given the number of candidates listed here, it’s not surprising that the Pegulas have put in a ton of work looking for their new GM.

There’s a ton of work to be done.

Kesler will have his hands full with McDavid, and vice-versa

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“It’s not me against McDavid,” says Ryan Kesler. “It’s the Anaheim Ducks against the Edmonton Oilers.”

OK, fine. But when one team has the NHL’s leading scorer, and the other a five-time Selke Trophy finalist, that’s a matchup that people are going to talk about.

Especially when the Ducks have last change, like they will tonight in Game 1 at Honda Center. Expect to see plenty of Kesler whenever Connor McDavid hits the ice.

“Kes takes it personally when he plays against the top players,” said Ducks teammate Kevin Bieksa, per the O.C. Register. “He’s just very competitive. He has the will. I keep hearing he gets inside people’s heads but I just think you do that by outplaying them.”

Kesler and Bieksa were also teammates in Vancouver, where Kesler became the Canucks’ first-ever Selke winner in 2011.

McDavid, meanwhile, will receive his first Art Ross Trophy in June. He’ll probably get his first Hart, too. Yet he knows it won’t be easy against Kesler, whose combination of speed and tenacity makes him such a great checker.

“He’s been up for the Selke for how many years in a row,” said McDavid. “That obviously speaks for itself. He obviously understands his defensive role.”

In case you’re wondering, McDavid played five games against the Ducks this season. He had two goals and five assists, and the Oilers went 3-2-0.

Kesler played all five of those games, too. He had two goals and no assists, and the Ducks went 2-1-2.

Flames ‘likely’ to leave Brouwer unprotected: Calgary Herald

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He turns 32 in August, and he’s got three years left on his contract with a sizable cap hit of $4.5 million.

He didn’t have a great playoffs either.

So we shouldn’t be too surprised to read that the Calgary Flames are “likely” to leave winger Troy Brouwer unprotected in the expansion draft.

From the Calgary Herald:

The acquisition of Curtis Lazar at the trade deadline for a second round pick came with a public assurance from GM Brad Treliving that Lazar was a reclamation project he planned to protect.

Thus, the list of seven forwards protected will likely include Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett and Lazar. First and second-year players like Matthew Tkachuk are exempt.

Brouwer had just 13 goals in 74 games for the Flames this season. He signed in Calgary on July 1, leaving the St. Louis Blues as an unrestricted free agent.

As the Herald notes, there’s no guarantee that Vegas will select him. But certainly, his old general manager from their days together in Washington, George McPhee, will give it some consideration.

McPhee gave Brouwer a three-year extension in 2012, calling him “a physical and versatile power forward who can play both wings. … He is a Stanley Cup winner and a great leader.”