by PuckStopsHere on 11/19/08 at 02:58 PM ET
I like to pick award leaders as the season is progressing in order to see who the current leaders are and when the leader may change. Today I will look at the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward. I think the leader is Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild. Mikko Koivu has been turned into a top checking centre in Jacques Lemaire’s defensive system in Minnesota. Koivu leads the Wild forwards in ice time with almost 22 minutes played per game and leads the team in scoring with 16 points. Koivu plays against one of the toughest qualities of opposition. In fact, only five forwards with considerable ice time (defined here as at least 10 games played and an average of 10 minutes per game of ice time at even strength) have faced a tougher quality of opposition than Koivu.
Those players are Andreas Nodl and Jeff Carter of the Philadelphia Flyers, Jay Pandolfo and John Madden of the New Jersey Devils and Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes. Of those players, only Staal has a positive on/off ice +/- rating. Given the high quality of opposition faced by these players it is not a sign that the other players are playing poorly. It is merely a sign that the tough opposition they play against is scoring against them. It is quite likely that their opposition would score even more if they were lined up against weaker forwards. Koivu is played in more shutdown and short handed situations than Staal and plays a more defensive style. Therefore, Mikko Koivu is the leader for the Selke Trophy at this point.
Koivu has developed into a very good forward. He has very strong defensive value and is a capable scorer. He is capable of playing significant minutes in essentially all situations. He is very valuable to the Minnesota Wild. His role may be permanently increased if the Wild follow through on some rumors and trade Marian Gaborik. This would make Koivu the clear number one forward on the team. He has been played in that role this season during the games when Gaborik is out due to injury, but if it becomes a more permanent arrangement, it could lead to Koivu’s role on the Wild changing to a more offensive one. It is likely that if Koivu is not among the Selke candidates (or the winner) this season, it will because he is used in more of an offensive role the rest of the way through the season. However, as we saw with Pavel Datsyuk’s Selke win last season a player in an offensive role who plays solid defence can win the Selke Trophy.
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