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Selke Voting: Still Messed Up

Last year, I wrote that the Selke Trophy voting was all messed up.  I did this because there is no consensus on who to pick.  Last year, there were 70 names picked on the writers’ ballots.  The winner in Pavel Datsyuk was omitted from 10% of the ballots entirely.  People had significant showings for having high +/- ratings without being particularly strong defensively or because they had established reputations as defensive forwards, but did not have particularly good seasons.  For example, Rod Brind’Amour had the worst adjusted +/- rating in the league and several votes including one first place vote.

A year later little has changed.

The 2010 Selke voting can be found here.  This year sixty players appeared on a Selke ballot.  There were a lot of different opinions of who is a Selke candidate.  Thirteen different people received at least one first place vote.  That is a lack of consensus.  Pavel Datsyuk won the award.  He was named on 99 ballots and not named at all on 34 ballots.  One quarter of voters did not think that the eventual winner belonged in the top five candidates for the award.  You will not find that lack of consensus in any of the other awards with published voting results.  Many voters have no idea what makes a good defensive forward.

In principle, I think the best defensive forward is the forward who earns the most wins for his team by his defensive play.  Of course it is hard to quantify defence, let alone how many wins a defensive forward might produce.  Nevertheless, that is what I try to do when i pick a Selke Trophy winner. 

A Selke Trophy winner must play well defensively and frequently be played in defensive situations.  This is why I have problems with Pavel Datsyuk’s selection.  Last year I criticized his selection because the Detroit Red Wings frequently roll out all four lines and do not play him against top opposition or on the penalty kill as often as other top Selke candidates.  It is one thing to argue that Datsyuk could have the biggest defensive value among forwards if he was played in a strong defensive role, but when it is demonstrable that he isn’t played that way, it is clear that he doesn’t have the biggest defensive value. 

This season Datsyuk was used in an even less defensive situation than last year.  He played against a lower quality of opposition this year than last.  His penalty killing time dropped by over half (from 129 minutes in 08/09 to 59 minutes in 09/10).  In short, Pavel Datsyuk was not played in enough of a defensive situation that he could have the biggest defensive value among NHL forwards.  At least a quarter of the voters appeared to agree as they left him off their ballots entirely.  Fifteen more voters had Datsyuk placed fourth or fifth (and thus did not think he should be nominated for the trophy). 

Many of the voters who did select Datsyuk did so because he is a multiple time past winner.  The picked him based upon reputation.  I think the second place finisher in Ryan Kesler was also a reputation selection.  He was a nominee last year and had a strong Olympics.  He also had a relatively strong negative rate stat adjusted +/-.  He is another poor choice as the potential Selke winner.  I think the third nominee in Jordan Staal should have been the winner.  He was the only one of the three nominees who deserved his position based on actually watching him play this year and not from reputation.

The Selke Trophy is one that voters have a problem picking.  Even if you believe the best player won, it is quite amazing that a quarter of voters did not pick the eventual winner in their top five.  When you start looking deeper at the results there are even more problems.  The fact that the winner had a significant reduction in his penalty killing time and his quality of competition makes it look as though he won on reputation and not on actually watching him play this season.  Pavel Datsyuk won the last three Selke trophies.  The first one was earned and the next two were won on reputation.  He has become less of a top Selke candidate each year of his run as his use in defensive situations has been consistently declining during that time.

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Leo_Racicot's avatar

Good stuff here. 

It should also be mentioned that the Wings PK improved this year, not sure if there is a direct correlation to Dats not being on the rink, though.  You got numbers on that?

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 06/29/10 at 03:15 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

I agree that Datsyuk was the wrong choice this season. It was most definitely a “reputation” pick, and not a reasonable pick. As you noted, his role and influence on the penalty kill dipped dramatically due to the excellent penalty killing of Darren Helm, Drew Miller, and Patrick Eaves. Overall, for the Red Wings, this is a great thing (would rather not waste one of your prime offensive player’s minutes in situations where he’s unlikely to score). But that’s a different discussion.

However, I have to say, if you disagree with his previous two wins, then you’re spending too much time looking at numbers, and not enough time watching hockey.

I love statistics and think they are critical when analyzing a player, but like you said yourself, it is very difficult to quantify “defense.” At some point, you’ve just got to use the old fashioned eyeball test to make some of these judgments.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/29/10 at 03:18 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

It should also be mentioned that the Wings PK improved this year, not sure if there is a direct correlation to Dats not being on the rink, though.  You got numbers on that?

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 06/29/10 at 01:15 PM ET

Not saying there couldn’t be a correlation, but I think given that the Wings team defense in all situations improved dramatically this season, it’s unfair and unrealistic to say a single player is the reason for the change. Team defense improved entirely, so Datsyuk was doing something right when he was on the ice at even strength.

The only player you could make a case for as having a massive individual impact with the improvement in team defense would be Jimmy Howard.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/29/10 at 03:24 PM ET

James Mirtle's avatar

I was one of the voters who left Datsyuk off my ballot, mainly for the reasons you cite here.

The problem with this award is that there are no statistics widely in use for quantifying strong defensive play, so many people are unsure how to vote. The award has had issues for years and years.

I’m not sure what the solution is.

Posted by James Mirtle from Toronto on 06/29/10 at 03:26 PM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

Agreed! Helm, Miller, and Eaves all should play against the other teams top line shift after shift.

Posted by Keyser S. on 06/29/10 at 03:28 PM ET

John W.'s avatar

My opinion of the best defensive forward is the forward who best turns defense into offense, and that’s why I think Pav should be a top candidate.  This isn’t the Norris trophy and to me a forward who is only good defensively but doesn’t put up many points shouldn’t win.  To me, Datsyuk is by far the best player in turning a defensive situation into an offensive situation.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 06/29/10 at 03:36 PM ET


I’m not sure what the solution is.

Maybe the answer is to let the GMs (and even the Head Coaches) do the voting, like with the Vezina - as much as that award is ‘who would you have in goal for your team with a one goal lead’, so the Selke is pretty much ‘which forward do you put on the ice against Crosby/Ovechkin to defend a powerplay/ one goal lead’.

Or maybe TPSH could build a machine which would use statistical algorithms to decide all the trophy winners…

Posted by fcjbencard on 06/29/10 at 03:55 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I was one of the voters who left Datsyuk off my ballot, mainly for the reasons you cite here.

I’m not disagreeing with anything said in TPSH’s post or in your post, Mirtle, but do you have a place where you’ve listed your top five Selke nominees?

Like I said, I agree that Datsyuk didn’t deserve the Selke this year, but After Staal, Kesler, Marleau, and Toews, I’m not sure who deserves a top five vote over Datsyuk.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/29/10 at 04:13 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


I will argue for Jay McClement of St Louis.  He isn’t a big name answer, but he led the league’s forwards in penalty kill time while playing on the best penalty kill in the league.  His defensive numbers look good and he played against as tough competition as any Blues regular.  I had him in third place on my imaginary ballot.

Travis Zajac, Mike Fisher and Mikko Koivu are another group of good picks.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/29/10 at 06:02 PM ET

Andy from FightNight's avatar

Look at the takeway numbers. There is no contest. Pavel Datsyuk can take the puck from anyone and quickly turns defense into offense tons of time per game. If you’d bothered to look up from your stat sheets and your PK-time sheets and look at an actual game, you’d see a forward with defensive abilities shared by no one.

Posted by Andy from FightNight on 06/29/10 at 06:11 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I could probably see Zajac, but McClement had 29 points in 82 games this season.  I know that the Selke is primarily defensive, but there is a certain offensive output that’s expected of the trophy’s winner that I don’t think 29 points qualifies for.

Mikku Koivu was a -2 with 50 PlMs
Mike Fisher’s 53 points is a little low, but I could accept that. His Penalty minutes are the highest of anybody being discussed here and I think that’s important.

Like I said, Zajac is probably the best of the four you named, but even then I think Datsyuk’s a better choice.

If I had my choice of any of these players to prevent a scoring chance either even-strength or shorthanded, I’d take Datsyuk over any of them.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/29/10 at 06:20 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


Here is something I wrote about the problem of using takeaways as a Selke stat.  In the 2008/09 season, Evgeni Malkin led the league in takeaways and he isn’t even a particularly strong defensive player.

The irony of your comment is that you accuse me of not watching games and only looking at a stat sheet and your argument is based entirely on one statistic that you would see doesn’t do a good job of capturing defensive play if you only watched the games.  Many takeaways are offensive zone counterattacks.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/29/10 at 06:24 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Do we have to keep reopening the argument about takeaways?

They’re not offensive.  If you take the puck away in the offensive zone, you’re eliminating a breakout, which is inherently a defensive thing. 

While we’re at it, because I fear this will eventually be brought up too, but takeaways for forwards are different than takeaways for defenseman.  So no, Datsyuk is not a better defensive player than Lidstrom because he had more takeaways, but he is a better defensive player than Mike Fisher thanks in part to the difference in takeaways.

Yes, not all forms of defense are alike and eliminating a guy on the boards is not a stat that gets counted, but all defensive forwards try for takeaways, Datsyuk is just the best one in the league at it and it should count for something.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/29/10 at 06:29 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

<A href=“http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhZrAm-nVs8”> Here is an example of a Pavel Datsyuk takeway that is clearly much more of an offensive play than a defensive one.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/29/10 at 08:31 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Looks to me like an example of Pavel Datsyuk eliminating an offensive breakout and rush towards his own end and any shots on goal or scoring chances that would have entailed.  Pretty defensively responsible if you ask me…

The goal doesn’t make the takeaway an offensive thing, it makes the deke and high glove-side backhand an offensive maneuver. We all already knew that was the case.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/29/10 at 08:54 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

A big part of the differentiation between offence and defence is puck position.  If the puck is deep in your zone its a defensive situation in almost all cases regardless of who possesses the puck.

In the case of that clip, the puck is deep in the Nashville zone and Datsyuk steals it for an offensive chance.  It is a defensive gaffe by Kevin Klein.  At the very least, even if we cannot agree, we have found a discrepancy of what we define as offence and defence and I argue that I place the boundary in a more meaningful place.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/29/10 at 09:00 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Aww, now that’s just being hurtful.  We often find different definitions, but arguing that one opinion is more “meaningful” than another is just plain hurtful.

I argue that the difference between offense and defense is not in puck position, but rather in puck possession.  If you have open possession of the puck, like Mr. Klein does here, you are on offense.

I will agree that a defenseman who is shielding the puck on the boards in his own end is indeed on defense, but that’s not the case in this situation.  Klein had the puck free and clear was transitioning with the puck out of his zone, which is an offensive maneuver.  Datsyuk relieving him of the puck is a defensive maneuver which, by virtue of him doing it 200 feet from his own net, allowed him to transition immediately to offense and score a (very impressive) goal.

Basically, I think board play is the only place where there is not a clear-cut possession-based separation of offense and defense and that’s the only place a person can be considered to be on defense with the puck or on offense without it.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/29/10 at 09:13 PM ET

Sullyosis's avatar

I’m shocked people would bitch about an award that a Detroit Red Wing has won 3 years in a row.  Good heavens, what would they say if Babs won the Adams 3 years in a row?

I enjoy it though.  I’m not going to take part in this discussion because I don’t watch hockey, I watch the Detroit Red Wings.  So I could never vote or criticize the voters, I just really enjoy Pav and I’m happy for him.  Many more to come, I’m sure.

Posted by Sullyosis from A hateful lair in Post Apocalyptic US (or Arizona) on 06/30/10 at 02:37 AM ET

13datsyukfan13's avatar


1 - If a team does not posses the puck ALL 6 guys on the ice are playing defense.

2 - Then the adage “the best defense is a good offense.” please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_best_defense_is_a_good_offense

TPHS - you sir are a moron!

Here is an example of a Pavel Datsyuk takeway that is clearly much more of an offensive play than a defensive one.

That can not be an offensive play until the Red Wings posses the puck.  Hence Datsyuk executed a defensive play when stealing the puck and turned it into an offensive play upon which he scored.  See 1 and 2 above.

Also - You say Jordan Staal should have won ... yet 45 voters, 11 MORE that Datsyuk, left him off their ballots entirely.  Gee ... too bad everyone has their own opinion isn’t it.


Posted by 13datsyukfan13 from Mid Michigan on 06/30/10 at 04:39 AM ET

James Mirtle's avatar

These were my picks. Looking back, I don’t think they were perfect, but these were all very solid defensive players this year:

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago
2. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa
3. Travis Zajac, New Jersey
4. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver
5. Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh

Posted by James Mirtle from Toronto on 06/30/10 at 12:32 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Thank you, James.

I disagree with your rankings, but there’s a solid case to be made for any of these guys to actually belong on the ballot.  Like I’ve said, I don’t think Datsyuk deserved the Selke this year either and I even agree with TPSH that Staal should have won it.

I’m just going to pretend you had Datsyuk at #6 wink

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/30/10 at 12:45 PM ET


who is the best person on the ice when they don’t have the puck? A lot of times it’s Datsuyk, I’m not saying he shouldn’t have won the award but watching him go after the puck when the opposition has it is almost just as exciting as when he does have it cuz you know he can turn the game flow from defense to offense in an instant, imo, that’s an extremely valuable defensive ability. grats to Dats on the award be it earned or reputation earned he’s still an awesomely defensive forward. 

Posted by Jim K. on 07/01/10 at 04:44 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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