2007-08 Selke voting
Another long, long list.
More than 80 forwards received a vote as one of the the top five defensive forwards in the NHL this season, which is roughly one-third of those who play on a team's top three lines:
Unlike some, I like the Selke. I think it's a great way to honour players who otherwise don't get a lot of credit for their contributions, or simply to highlight players like Henrik Zetterberg who bring far more to the table than can be measured in goals and assists.
After the season ended, I went through my methodology for picking the Selke before eventually settling on Patrick Sharp as a deserving winner.
My top 10 choices were in a poll on that post, with the final results looking like so:
- Pavel Datsyuk, 26%
- Patrick Sharp, 19%
- Mikko Koivu, 12%
- Henrik Zetterberg, 12%
- Sami Pahlsson, 9%
- John Madden, 6%
- Travis Moen, 4%
- Rick Nash, 3%
- Jay Pandolfo, 1%
- Rob Niedermayer 1%
A much better showing, overall, than last season, when Rod Brind'Amour won over Pahlsson for no explicable reason. (Two months after the voting, Pahlsson was a big reason the Ducks won the Stanley Cup.)
Koivu finished eighth, Moen 23rd, Nash 66th, Pandolfo 17th and Niedermayer 18th.
And a whole bunch of odd choices in between.
It'd take me hours to root through the statistics for all the vote getters and come up with a list of the worst choices, but a lot are plainly evident against my Selke candidate criteria: (a) a player should check the opposition's top line at even strength, (b) he should, in general, prevent goals when he's on the ice, and (c) he should play on the penalty kill, preferably the first unit.
To me, that's a defensive forward. At least, that would make a candidate to finish among the top five in the league, which is what we're picking.
My list would have been: Sharp - Zetterberg - Datsyuk - Koivu - Pahlsson
(The last two you can debate given they missed about 25 games apiece. Madden and Moen would be next up.)
Some of the wild picks? Japers' Rink points out that Viktor Kozlov and his eight minutes of shorthanded ice time (over 81 games) received a first-place vote.
Brind'Amour finishes 24th, which I can live with. Ovechkin received four votes despite not playing hardly a wink on the penalty kill, and he was joined by several other non-defensive forwards like Dany Heatley, Mats Sundin, Nathan Horton, Mike Ribeiro, Joe Thornton, Doug Weight, Stephen Weiss, Nicklas Backstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Jiri Hudler, Derek Roy, etc.
Those players, and others, were considered to be among the top five defensive forwards in the NHL, and all were ahead of, or tied with, Jordan Staal, Torrey Mitchell and Rick Nash, who played key defensive roles.
Which makes no sense.
Among forwards who played in 50 games this season, Ribeiro faced the second weakest even-strength opposition in the NHL. Todd White, 42nd in Selke voting, was on the ice for the sixth most even-strength goals against per minute this season.
When it comes to penalty killing, Ryan Kesler was on the ice for the most power play goals against among forwards. Matt Stajan was third.
In power play goals against per minute, Brind'Amour was again near the head of the class. Mike Richards was way up there, too.
Now, as I said, this year's nominees and vote getters are far better than they've been in the past, and I think that's partly attributable to the fact there is more information available on the defensive side of the game. There are still an awful lot of PHWA votes, however, being cast into the wind (or worse).
Heatley, Getzlaf, Kozlov, Ovechkin, Morrow, Ribeiro, etc., all make the list due to their plus-minus, even as the bogus stat hurts the likes of Mike Grier, Stu Barnes and Sami Pahlsson.
Why does any of this matter?
To me, the Selke voting's indicative of a lot of misinformation out there. Coaches, the good ones anyway, know what a great defensive forward is. There's a reason, after all, that they allocate every minute — even strength, man up or down — the way they do, and that helps separate the Bowmans from those on the unemployment line.
Shouldn't the media — and, by extension, the fans — know, too?