The Frank J. Selke Trophy might be one of the most subjective awards in all of sports. By definition, the Selke goes to the NHL forward who “demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.” Unofficially, the award goes to the best all-around forward in the NHL. There’s a reason that all three finalists are also amazing offensive talents. The three finalists this season should know their way to The Palms in Las Vegas—because they were all nominated last year as well.
Here are PHT’s best arguments for each of the three finalists to win the coveted award.
Matt Reitz’s case for Ryan Kesler:
The award for best defensive forward oftentimes goes to a great player who happens to play well on the defensive side of the puck. Both Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Toews had good seasons—but neither were on the same level as Kesler. And let’s be honest, it’s hard to give any award to Datsyuk because he missed 26 games.
Ryan Kesler actually fits into both roles—he’s a great player who happens to also be great defensively. He’s had a great all-around season and is an extremely good defensive player. His 57.4% faceoff percentage was tied for 6th in the league; and he won more faceoffs than anyone else in the league NOT named Jonathan Toews. He was in the top 10 with 3 shorthanded goals while killing penalties and served as the teams emotional leader as he lead all Vancouver forwards in blocked shots and takeaways (and was fourth in hits). Not bad when you consider Manny Malhotra plays on the same team. Oh, and he dropped 41 goals to finish in a tie for 4th in the league. That helps get a little attention.
Joe Yerdon’s case for Pavel Datsyuk:
Well really, what isn’t there to like about Pavel Datsyuk? You want a center who can defend and score and he can do that. He had 71 takeaways during the season. That total was good for 11th in the NHL. Sure that doesn’t seem impressive until you realize he missed 26 games this season. He won 54.6% of his faceoffs and also scored 23 goals with 36 assists.
He can defend against your best forwards and score against your best defenders. He’s a threat to steal the puck away anytime he’s on the ice and he’s been lauded for his defensive work already in the past winning the Selke Trophy the last three years in a row. Ryan Kesler might’ve had a great year, but he’s still wearing Pavel Datsyuk underpants each day when it comes to playing defense.
James O’Brien’s case for Jonathan Toews:
I agree with Matt regarding Datsyuk; missing 26 games eliminates him despite his greatness. While Kesler is a great candidate, both players seem to follow an interesting pattern in that they probably weren’t the best defensive centers on their teams (Kesler had Manny Malhotra; Toews had Dave Bolland) but dazzled as two-way players.
Ultimately, I think Toews deserves the Selke because a greater burden was put on his shoulders. The Vancouver Canucks shared the wealth at center (Henrik Sedin was counted upon more for scoring while Malhotra took plenty of draws in his own zone) while the Chicago Blackhawks counted on Toews to be Mr. Everything. (Again, Bolland helped, but Toews was often on an island.)
Toews won the second most faceoffs in the league. He came in second in the NHL in takeaways with 93 to Kesler’s 65 and Datsyuk’s 71 (it’s a nebulous category, but people usually love to cite it when choosing Datsyuk). The hockey world is still refining its methods of measuring great defensive play, so in the mean time, go with the guy who’s doing the most at each end of the ice. Toews fits that bill in 2010-11.