The Frank J. Selke Trophy has supposedly been awarded to the forward who “best excels in the defensive aspects of the game” since the 1977-78 season. Bob Gainey was the first recipient of that trophy when he had only 31 points in 66 games and was the 14th best scorer on the Monreal Canadiens. Gainey also won the next three Selke Trophies, never finishing amongst the top eight scorers on the Canadiens.
In more recent years, the trophy has been awarded to Pavel Datsyuk twice (97 points both times) and Rod Brind’Amour twice (70 and 82 points). In years before that, players like Jere Lehtinen, Mike Peca, John Madden and Kris Draper all won the award. They all deserved the award except they all seemed to win it in seasons where they had their best goal production or where they scored a few shorthanded goals.
The reason I’m mentioning all this is that the three nominees for the 2009-10 Selke Trophy are:
-Pavel Datsyuk: 27 goals and 43 assists, leading scorer on the Detroit Red Wings.
-Ryan Kesler: 25 goals and 50 assists, 3rd leading scorer on the Vancouver Canucks.
-Jordan Staal: 21 goals and 28 assists, 4th leading scorer on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I know all three of these players are very good defensively and are amongst the best two-way forwards in the NHL but are they the ones who “best excel in the defensive aspects of the game”?
One player who has never really been considered as a Selke candidate is Jay McClement of the St. Louis Blues. McClement led all forwards with 3:44 of shorthanded time on ice per game, 21 seconds ahead of Todd Marchant who came in 2nd and 24 seconds ahead of Jordan Staal in 3rd. The Blues, Ducks and Penguins all committed about the same number of minor penalties but McClement was used more than the other two. You might argue that there is much more talent on the Penguins than the Blues but the Blues led the league in penalty kill with 86.8% while the Penguins were ninth.
Moreover, Jay McClement was one of only four regular forwards with the Blues who did not have a negative +/- and the leader was his line-mate Alex Steen. Basically, you have a forward who is amongst the best on his team in +/-, leads the NHL in shorthanded time on ice and is on the top penalty kill in the NHL but who isn’t even being considered for the best defensive forward award. It seems that the only reason this is the case is because he has only 29 points in 82 games.
In my opinion, Ryan Kesler will win the award this season, and he deserves it, but it’s unfortunate that it would be because he had his best offensive season and not because of his defensive play.