Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Selke Selections

Similar to the Vezina, there are a handful of candidates that are worthy of Selke honors this season. Its a very debatable award, considering what merits the qualification of a "forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game." There's the work in the faceoff circle (or not), ice time against the best lines of the competition, penalty killing, takeaways, you name it and it probably garners some attention when thinking about who to select. I'm not a big stats guy, so I rely on watching these guys night in, night out, and which is why you should hold no accountability when I'm spewing unsubstaniated opinion.

Pavel Datsyuk is the reigning award winner for two years straight and its easy to see why when looking at his game. Almost on every shift, you can see the opposition heading up ice only to have Datsyuk backchecking hard, make a quick stickcheck and head back the other way, usually to dangle some poor unsuspecting defenseman, and flip it behind the goaltender. As offensively skilled as he is, he is solid in his own end as well, working in all special team situations, averaging 20:23 time on ice per game, the most for any forward on Detroit. He's tied for the lead with teammate Zetterberg with 23 goals on the Wings, 8 of them coming on the power play, and 60 points overall on the season. He's +14, the highest +/- for Wings forwards, with a 55.7% faceoff percentage proving that he can just about do it all.

Jonathan Toews was the unsung Canadian hero of the Olympics, making several crucial defensive plays throughout the tournament, while looking like a poised veteran and yet one of the youngest members of the team. He has been heralded as a tireless worker, attempting to improve any weak areas of his game as few as they may be. He leads all Blackhawk forwards in time on ice, and is good for third on the team with 59 points (22G, 37A) with 8 power play goals. He carries a +19, and has a 57.3 faceoff percentage, tops on the Hawks and in the top ten of the entire League.

Ryan Kesler was actually a 2009 Selke nominee who lost out to Datsyuk. Known for being a relentless, agitating forward, that stirs it up from the ice and the bench, his knack for disrupting the play often produces plenty of favorable turnovers. Kesler's having a career year with 68 points, (22G, 46A) and was handsomely rewarded by the Canucks with a new six year, $30million contract extension before entering restricted free agency. He leads all Vancouver forwards in ice time with an average of 19:52 with a 55.6 faceoff percentage, but a -1 will pull his voting down.

Mikko Koivu, captain of the Minnesota Wild is one of those names that could easily be tossed into the ring. He leads the Wild in points with 66, (20G, 46A), seven goals on the power play, one shorthanded, leads all forwards in time on ice (20:29), has a 56.9 faceoff percentage, but is only a +1 on a Minnesota club going through some growing pains.

With underrated speed and great hockey sense, Patrick Marleau is a beast on the penalty kill, potting four shortys this season. Add that to his 12 power play goals, and he's the leader in goals for the Sharks with 42, his career best. Second in points on the Sharks with 80, he leads all San Jose forwards in time on ice with a 21:12 average, good for 10th in the League among forwards.

Another strong penalty killer is Jordan Staal, who is cast in the shadows of a Pittsburgh team under Crosby and Malkin. He's third on the team in points with 48 (21G, 27A) behind those two, with two shorthanded goals on the year, and is third for forwards in time on ice (19:15) with the Penguins. Staal, more than likely doesn't have a realistic shot of getting a nomination, but I have no doubt that he will one day.

The first three mentioned are who I believe will be nominated for the Selke, but there's a good chance that Kesler could be replaced with Koivu or Marleau. For a while it seemed as if it was Toews to run away with, but lately he's hit a mild slump that has had a larger impact on that Chicago team. His Olympic performance was excellent, but since then he's been struggling. Award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, so its always subject to the popular name being bantered about, for better or worse.

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