The Selke Trophy
The Selke Trophy is an intriguing award to analyze. They awarded it to the best defensive forward. The impact on the game is much less noticeable compared to other offensive awards throughout the league.
They named Selke Trophy after the legendary general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, Frank J. Selke. The first award recipient was Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens in 1977.
It’s recognized that Gainey is the best defensive forward ever. He has garnered four Selke Trophies, most in the award’s history tied with Patrice Bergeron, despite the award coming midway through his career. If they introduced the award earlier, Gainey would have more in his Trophy case.
The 25-year-old Finn has developed like fine wine both defensively and offensively. In Aleksander Barkov’s career, his performance proved that statement this year. The way Barkov has affected the Panthers this season is the primary reason they took a jump in the standings. Simply put Barkov is the heart and soul of the franchise.
The amount of minutes and situations coach Quenneville deploys him in deserves significant praise for his efforts on the defensive end of the ice. I believe Barkov has the potential to pass Bergeron and Gainey for best defensive forward ever. The way he affects the Panthers are reminiscent of early Bergeron days but he gets overlooked simply because Barkov plays in Florida.
Also, because it seems kind of like Barkov’s “turn” to win the award. He makes an interesting case to win the award and his year this year is very similar to when Ryan O’Reilly won the award. Both players are absolutely stellar on both ends of the ice and are the heart of their teams. Shame he plays in Florida as he is a top-notch player in the league.
Similar to Barkov’s declaration has the heart and soul on both ends of the ice for Florida. Mark Stone is the same way for the juggernaut, the Golden Knights. Last season was the first season Stone got recognized as a top defensive forward despite him being stellar defensively since his rookie season in Ottawa.
Stone has affected the Golden Knights severely since his arrival from a trade with the Senators. The Knights have gone from a team that got lucky to make a cup final, into an elite team. The team’s defensive play has elevated since then and their offense followed. If Stone wins the award, he would be only the 6th winger to win it, the most recent being three-time recipient Jere Lehtinen.
Similar to Lehtinen’s impact on a stacked Dallas Stars team, Stone elevates the team to hi8gher levels with his offense and defense and deserves recognition for his efforts. Stone leads in takeaways at 3.30 takeaways a game too, which only helps his case. Frankly, voters were keen last year to make Stone the first winger since Lehtinen to win the award last season and this year could be the year.
The most often thought-about part of Sidney Crosby’s game has never been about offense but his defense. The franchise center man put that on full display on yet another effective campaign. He had a Hart-worthy season, at center, as he led a Pittsburgh team many insiders thought would miss the playoffs.
His defense this year was in my opinion, his best ever as he shut down some top centers in his division. Names like Mika Zibanejad, Patrice Bergeron and Nicklas Backstrom, all are number 1 centers in the league. We consider Crosby the best player of this generation. We find it amazing he has never won the Selke Trophy, despite his stellar numbers on both ends of the puck but if any year he deserves it this year.
If you sat down and watched Crosby play, you would see that he was the forward, breaking the puck out of the zone all most every time he was on the ice. Unlike say McDavid where he sometimes has Nugent-Hopkins or Draisaitl break it out for themselves. Crosby is still an elite center man in the league except most notably defensively.
Ah yes, the reigning winner makes another appearance. Last season Sean Couturier won because of his efforts on the defensive end of the puck and for helping the Flyers be an elite team in the standings. This season Couturier was a lone bright spot for a burned-out Flyers squad. Almost everyone was a disappointment especially considering the year before except for three: Couturier, break out player Joel Farabee and James Van Riemsdyk who had a resurgent first half after two disappointing seasons.
Couturier once again maintained a solid point total while being completely potent defensively, in a year where the Flyers needed it. His defense helps more than ever because of the Flyers’ defense crumbling. To go along with the loss and lack of replacement for Matt Niskanen and a crumbling goaltending situation.
Couturier really proved his worth to this team by that performance despite the underachieving squad around him. He deserves a shot at winning it a second straight season, with him thriving despite those around him.
Gainey and Bergeron, Bergeron and Gainey, they just go together like peas and carrots. Among hockey analysts and insiders that is a big question. Who is the best defensive player ever? Bergeron winning it a fifth time could end most debates by insiders. He certainly deserves that chance if they nominate him once again.
Bergeron maintained a good balance between defense and offense for an excellent team. This Boston team experienced a lot of turnover since the end of last year’s playoffs. Core pieces on defense Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug both left in free agency and they did not really seek a replacement for either of them.
Bergeron not only took over the leadership duties from Chara in terms of the captaincy. But also helped to keep pucks out of the net as the Bruins allowed the second-fewest goals in their division. Despite their key losses, Bergeron also helped boost their offense with arguably the best line in hockey. Along with another player who deserves Selke votes, Brad Marchand and sniper David Pastrnak.
Bergeron is also a key part of this postseason’s cup run and his effect on the game is clear every time he steps on the ice surface. With Bergy’s help, the Bruins have made themselves a potential playoff missing team into a team with a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup. This very special player had a lot to do with that.
This award does not get as much publicity as perhaps it should. Two-way hockey has had as much effect on the game as goal scoring. If a winger is a top-notch defensive player, that is a very rare sight, but we have one who will go down as the best defensive winger of all time.
We have arguably the best defensive forward of all time, and a player getting his due thanks to his place on a very good up-and-coming Panthers team. Also, we have the reigning winner and finally the best player of the era.
This Selke voting is going to be one to watch as it may go down as one of the closest votes for an award in history.
That is the view from up North.