Predictions for the 2015-16 Selke Trophy

The 2015-16 NHL season is coming to a close and what better way to cap off the year than by taking a look at the front-runners for the NHL Awards? The league’s ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, but there is no harm in getting our predictions in now. For a look back on yesterday’s article on the Calder Memorial Trophy, click here.

The Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. The winner is selected by a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association following the regular season.

Predictions for the 2015-16 Selke Trophy

Honourable Mention:

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers, 11 goals, 28 assists, 39 points in 62 games in the 2015-16 regular season

When the Flyers drafted the Phoenix, Arizona native 8th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the feeling from the get go was that Couts would one day become a premiere two-way forward in the National Hockey League. At 23 years of age, that’s finally coming to fruition for the Flyers. Posting 39 points in 63 games for his best points per game average of his career, Couturier has found himself in the conversation for the Frank J. Selke trophy.

While his scoring numbers are not much to impress anyone (not that it should as this is specifically an award to go to the best defensive forward), Couturier excelled for the Flyers as a defensive forward, suppressing shots with big minutes. His downside ended up being the lack of overall games he’d play and that despite suppressing shots (24.67% on-ice unblocked shot attempts on goal against, lower than the three finalists according to War on Ice), he was not exactly creating shots like a lot of other defensive forwards. His Corsi for per 60 of competition hit 55.50, once again leading the finalists.

Next year I expect Couturier to find a spot in the finalists, especially if he stays healthy.

Finalists:

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings, 25 goals, 49 assists, 74 points
5v5 stats: 13 goals, 31 assists, 44 points in 80 games in the 2015-16 regular season

LA Kings fans have been vocal on when it’s going to be Anze’s time to be the Selke trophy winner, an award that has never been given to a Kings forward. With on ice shots for per 60 better than the finalists and a strong 31.82 shots for per 60 minutes, Kopitar makes several strong cases that he’s not only on one of the best defensive teams in the league but is the man in charge.

What hurts the 28 year old on his quest to hold the Selke trophy? His on ice shot attempts on goal is only 49.92, less than a guy like Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens (53.19) let alone a Patrice Bergeron (57.14). His percentage of five on five shots in relation to his teammates when off the ice is 0.89, which hurts his argument of being the man in charge of the Kings defensive play up the ice. If Kopitar wants to stand out among the best in the league, he needs to stand out better with his own teammates.

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins, 32 goals, 36 assists, 68 points
5v5 stats 18 goals, 15 assists, 33 points in 80 games in the 2015-16 regular season

Is this the year Bergeron gets bumped to watching someone else win the Selke? Bergeron had an excellent year with the Boston Bruins, and once again situated himself as one of the best defensive forwards of his generation. When it comes to five on five, few players create shots like Patrice, with a relative shots for percentage of total of 7.72%, second among finalists. His on ice shots for per 60 was second best among finalists with a Corsi for per 60 minutes of 63.49. When you face top competition every game and still find ways to get the puck out of your zone from the defensive faceoff into the opponents area? You are always going to be up high on the list for the Selke trophy.

While I am not personally picking him to win, don’t take this as Bergeron having a bad year or blaming him for the Boston Bruins missing the playoffs. The margin of him losing this is slim, I just could see the NHL going in a different direction.

Winning Pick:

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks, 19 goals 63 assists 82 points
5v5 stats 8 goals, 37 assists, 45 points in 82 games in the 2015-16 regular season

It might feel like a surprise to go with a guy like Joe Thornton, who has been unfairly judged as a pure offensive player for most of his career. Yet Jumbo Joe has the second best relative possession numbers in the past three years behind only Bergeron. His relative shots for percentage of total this season (8.03%) is exceptionally strong, he has been on the ice for 70.65% of the Sharks goals, his Fenwick for percentage peaks at 58.32%, and finished with a 104.44 PDO. His most impressive statistic was a five on five shots against per 60 of just 23.69, which likely helped Martin Jones save percentage quite a bit.

This may look more like a lot of statistics to promote Thornton as a great offensive player, something everyone already knows about him. And while he was not taking defensive zone faceoffs at the level of Couturier or Bergeron, Thornton’s 338 defensive zone faceoffs show it is  not like he was being sheltered from them. When Thornton has the puck or gets it off his stick, it’s going to a teammate, and stays away from the Shark tank. 58.34% shot attempts during five on five is a dominant number, and paints why Thornton could usurp Bergeron for the trophy. When Joe Thornton is on the ice, things become a schoolyard game of keep away, no matter how many shots get fired on your own net. At 36 years of age, Thornton is learning what Steve Yzerman learned when he won the Selke in 1999-00. That experience as a top scorer teaches you how to control the ice on both sides. Thornton may no longer be a 100 point playmaking marvel, but that does not stop him from being one of the best players on the ice when he’s out there. If he does not take it home this year, next season is still an open door for Jumbo Joe.

 


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