by PuckStopsHere on 06/29/10 at 12:43 PM ET
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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