With teams hitting the final stretch of the season, discussion around competition for individual awards has started to heat up. Last year, Patrice Bergeron won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the forward who best excels in the defensive aspect of the game by a wide margin. This award is somewhat difficult to gauge, mainly because it’s voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, a combination of individuals who have varying stances on the validity of advanced stats in hockey, and I’m (obviously) not completely sure what each voter is going to base their vote on. Regardless, there are four players, including Bergeron, who break away from the pack as the most valuable defensive forwards in the game.
Let’s take a look
Like I said before, of all the major awards in hockey, the Selke might be the most difficult one to predict. There’s obviously a lot of discussion and disagreement in the sport regarding the validity of advanced statistics, particularly when it comes to measuring how much value a player has on the defensive side of the puck. As a result, I think the Selke is the award that tends to rely on the old fashioned eye test. Regardless, when looking at the numbers, four guys stand out to me: Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, and Pavel Datsyuk, and I imagine those are going to be the four guys who get the most votes, based on eye tests or not.
(Note: All stats I list here are at 5 on 5)
Defensive point shares: 0.9
The first thing that jumps out at me from Kopitar’s stats is his mediocre GoalsFor%. While his goals against per 60 minutes is pretty good, the Kings only have 47.1 per cent of the goals scored when he’s on the ice. A little deeper look would suggest this is a symptom of really bad puck luck — which can honestly summarize the 2014-15 Los Angeles Kings’ season. Kopitar has really good Corsi and shooting stats, as he basically dominates his teammates in terms of CorsiFor% and ShotsFor%, but his PDO is only 96.0, which would explain why his scoring stats don’t match up with his possession stats.
Defensive point shares: 2.2
At a quick glance, Toews’ stats this year are incredible. The Blackhawks have 62.3 per cent of the goals scored when he’s on the ice at 5 on 5, and he dominates his opponents in all of his possession and shooting stats. Unlike Kopitar, though, Toews has had some seriously good puck luck this season (his PDO is 102.2) and his accomplishments are somewhat watered down by the environment he plays in and the fact he makes a lot of starts in the offensive zone. While that may be the case, it’s hard to ignore his 2.2 defensive point shares, considering Bergeron won the award last season with 2.8.
CorsiFor%: 59.4 (!!!)
Defensive point shares: 1.3
Datsyuk’s possession stats are off the charts. I put the (!!!) next to Pavel Datsyuk’s CorsiFor% because it’s the best CorsiFor% in the league at 5 on 5. Like Toews, Datsyuk may appear to be a product of his environment, but at a closer look, that might be debatable. Despite his teammates having strong possession numbers, Datsyuk still ranks towards the top of the league in CorsiFor% in relation to teammates, meaning he’s still really good in comparison to players who are doing really well. The one negative Datsyuk does have, though, is the fact he makes a lot of starts in the offensive zone. Again, like with Toews, it’s unfair to knock a player for their situation their put in when their team is really good.
Defensive point shares: 1.0
Bergeron has been flat out dominant this season. First of all, his GoalsFor% of 46.9 looks pretty mediocre, but it’s canceled out by the fact he’s in the bottom 10 in the league with a 95.6 5 on 5 PDO. He dominates in all of CorsiFor%, ShotsFor%, and ScoringChancesFor% even more so than Kopitar, Datsyuk, and Toews do, and he does it while starting a lot more shifts in the defensive zone than they do. All that being said, I think the most impressive thing about Patrice Bergeron is how good he is in relation to his teammates. He leads the league in CorsiFor% in relation to teammates, and his teammates CorsiFor% when he’s off the ice is 49.6, in comparison to his CF% of 58.1. On top of that, Bergeron has been a rock despite the fact Boston’s best defenseman Zdeno Chara missed a good chunk of time at the beginning of the season.
In sum, all of these guys have been really impressive this season. It’s difficult to ignore Toews’ GoalsFor% and Datsyuk’s CorsiFor% even though they get favorable zone starts on really good teams. With that being said, Bergeron probably takes the Selke home because of how good he is in relation to everybody else on his team and the quality of competition he faces.