What If the Selke Trophy Were Actually Awarded to Defensive Specialists?

January 6th, 2017 by Jonathan Willis Leave a reply »

The NHL has an award nominally for defensive specialists, the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which supposedly goes to "the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game." Yet, no purely defensive forward has won the trophy in recent memory. Instead, it sometimes feels as though it’s awarded annually to the guy we can all agree is a good defensive player and who happens to be having a great offensive season.

That’s an exaggeration, but not much of one. This year, for example, it’s hard not to like Ryan Kesler’s chances of winning the award.

He meets both criteria. First, he’s one of the dozen or so forwards in the NHL whose two-way reputation has (rightly) become enshrined in hockey’s conventional wisdom. Second, he’s having a great offensive season. He’s presently on pace to score 30 goals for the first time since 2010-11; it isn’t a coincidence that the last time he topped that mark was also the year he won the Selke.

Anze Kopitar won last year in a season where his shot metrics were down (relative to his excellent career) and where he didn’t play particul ...

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