It wasn’t long before the NHL awards season got its first taste of lobbying.
On Monday, Claude Julien kicked it off.
With his team prepping for a massive Game 7 against Washington, Boston’s head coach staked a claim for the Selke, saying his No. 1 center — Patrice Bergeron — should win the award given annually to the league’s best defensive forward.
“In my mind, there’s no doubt that Patrice deserves this,” Julien told CSNNE.com. “The way he’s played this year, the things he’s done to be nominated, how good he’s been defensively.
“He’s got two young players on each side of him. He’s played against top players all year long, and he’s the best plus-player, probably of that group.”
Bergeron’s made a strong case for the Selke Trophy, which he’ll compete for with fellow nominees David Backes and three-time winner Pavel Datsyuk. Bergeron finished second on the Bruins in scoring, second in the NHL in faceoff percentage (59.3 percent) and led all Boston forwards with 67 blocked shots and 55 takeaways.
He also led the league with a plus-36 rating.
“Offensively, defensively, key situations, he’s done everything to deserve that,” Julien said. “To be honest with you, I’d be very disappointed if he didn’t win that.
As we shared with you earlier, the NHL announced the three finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the league’s best defensive forward: David Backes of the St. Louis Blues, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings.
If you’re curious about the case each of these players has to take home this year’s award, here’s a brief rundown:
– Datsyuk is a five-time finalist for the award and a three-time winner. His puck-stealing ability is legendary and his ability to turn defense into instant offense is well known throughout the league.
– Bergeron is building a legend of his own in Boston thanks to his gutsy play and ability to win faceoffs. He finished second in the NHL in faceoff percentage, behind Jonathan Toews, and is tops on the team in shorthanded time-on-ice. When the Bruins need someone to shutdown an opponent, they call on Bergeron.
– Backes is the Blues’ most physical presence up front. He doled out 226 hits, most on the team, while also taking the most faceoffs. His reputation as a physical dynamo is well known amongst the players and, thanks to the Blues’ success this year, is becoming the thing of folk lore with fans.
With that said, who’s your pick to win the award?
Backes, Bergeron, and Datsyuk are your Selke Trophy finalists
Datsyuk is a three-time winner of the Selke Trophy taking the hardware home in three straight seasons from 2007-08 to 2009-2010. Datsyuk was a finalist again last year but lost out to Canucks forward Ryan Kesler. This is Datsyuk’s fifth time being nominated for the award.
Bergeron and Backes are each first-time finalists for the award and both have impressive résumés.
Backes led the Blues in hits with 226 while also leading the team in faceoffs taken. Backes also blocked 72 shots and was a +15 in plus/minus this year. Bergeron, on the other hand, led the Bruins in shorthanded time-on-ice and won 59.2% of his faceoffs during the year, good for second in the league behind Jonathan Toews.
The winner will be announced on June 20 in Las Vegas.
Mikko Koivu is the face and leader of the Minnesota Wild. He might not be a household name in the NHL, but he’s a guy that’s always been steady throughout his career with the Wild and thanks to that he’s become the captain of the team.
One of his major strengths is how he plays defensively and in Minnesota, strong defense is something they strive for. Koivu is perhaps the Wild’s top defensive forward and guy most responsible for shutting down opposing centers. In short, the Wild would be in trouble without him in the lineup.
New Wild coach Mike Yeo knows he has someone special in Koivu, and he’s got high hopes for the Finnish center this season including taking home a piece of hardware that has some lofty company. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo shares how Mike Yeo thinks Koivu can win the Selke Trophy.
“I have very, very high hopes for Mikko,” first-year coach Mike Yeo said. “I’m not going to say he’s going to get 125 points next year, but I know one thing, he’s going to have a great chance to succeed with the players he’s going to have around him.
“One thing I already started talking to Mikko about is I’m going to push for that guy to win the Selke Trophy [NHL’s best defensive forward]. I don’t know if he’s going to win the Hart [MVP] next year, but I believe he can win the Selke. In order to do that, you have to get a lot of points, but you also have to be great defensively.”
Playing solid defense has never been an issue for Koivu. Racking up the big time points to get noticed has been. With the additions of Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley, things could be about to change for Koivu and the Wild.
That said, looking to get mixed into the Selke race is asking a lot. With perennial favorites to win like Pavel Datsyuk and Ryan Kesler in there to dominate the discussion, it’s tough to weave your way into that discussion. It’s made even harder when those two players are on teams that get a ton of media exposure. Of course, if the Wild can win a lot of games and get to the top of the Western Conference somehow, Koivu can force his way into the discussion.