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Entering this season, Pavel Datsyuk(notes) had a chance to win his fourth straight Selke Trophy for top defensive forward, tying Bob Gainey's NHL record. But competition from his peers, and injuries that limited him to 56 games, appeared to jeopardize his candidacy.

Or not …

Centers Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, Ryan Kesler(notes) of the Vancouver Canucks and Jonathan Toews(notes) of the Chicago Blackhawks are the three finalists for the 2010-11 Frank Selke Trophy, which is awarded "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game."

The Professional Hockey Writers Association submits five-player ballots for the Selke, and the top-three vote-getters make the cut.

Who wins the 2010-11 Selke Award? And what player do you believe may have been snubbed for the award this season?

 

Why Pavel Datsyuk Deserves the Selke

From the NHL:

A master at getting and keeping the puck, Datsyuk ranked 11th in the League in takeaways with 71 despite being limited to 56 games due to injury. Datsyuk tied for second on the Red Wings in plus-minus with a +11 rating and was the club's top face-off man, posting a 54.6% winning percentage (429 of 785) -- his seventh consecutive season posting a win rate above 53%. Datsyuk could become the first player to win the Selke Trophy for four consecutive seasons since Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens won it the first four seasons it was presented, from 1978 through 1981.

The simple answer is that Datsyuk is a difference-maker defensively in a way that catches your eye whenever you watch the Red Wings. This isn't just a reputation-based nomination; the numbers don't lie, either.

But the numbers are also not as good as last season's. Datsyuk's takeaways average to 1.27 per game played, which is down from 1.65 last season. His faceoff winning percentage this season (54.6) is down from last season (55.1).

But most of all, the primary argument against Dats is that his games played dropped from 80 to 56; that's only 15 more than Sidney Crosby(notes) played this year, 16 less than Kesler and 14 less than Toews.

Why Ryan Kesler Deserves the Selke

From the NHL:

Kesler helped the Canucks record the lowest team goals-against average in the NHL (2.20) for the first time in franchise history. He ranked fourth among NHL forwards in blocked shots (80), appeared in all 82 games and averaged a career-high 20:29 in ice time to lead all Vancouver forwards. The speedy center ranked sixth among NHL centers in face-offs taken (1,496), winning a team-best and career-high 57.4% of them (859), dished out 124 hits; recorded a team-high 65 takeaways and posted a +24 rating. Kesler is a Selke Trophy finalist for the third consecutive year, finishing second in 2010 and third in 2009.

At some point, the bridesmaid has to become the bride, right?

The acquisition of Manny Malhotra(notes) in the summer took some of the defensive heat from Kesler, and as a result he had the best offensive season of his career. But there's no question he still had the goods on faceoffs and takeaways, and skated more short-handed (2:33) than either Datsyuk or Toews.  Look no further than the Stanley Cup Playoffs to be reminded of what kind of shutdown center this guy is; right, Mr. Toews?

Why Jonathan Toews Deserves the Selke

From the NHL:

Toews led all Chicago forwards in plus-minus and ranked second on the club overall with a career-high +25 rating. He took 1,653 face-offs, second in the NHL behind Carolina's Eric Staal(notes) (1,751), and won a League-leading 937 of them (56.7%). He recorded 95 takeaways, also second in the NHL behind San Jose's Joe Thornton(notes) (114), delivered 74 hits and blocked 28 shots. The Blackhawks captain, who turns 23 on Friday, is a first-time Selke finalist and a second-time NHL trophy finalist -- he finished third in Calder Trophy voting for the League's top rookie in 2008.

On top of all that, Toews also faced slightly tougher competition than Datsyuk, according to Behind The Net's Quality of Competition ratings for 5-on-5 hockey; aka "Average Relative Plus-Minus of opposing players, weighted by head-to-head ice time." (Toews: 0.079 rating; Datsyuk: 0.076 rating.) QualComp is an argument against Kesler, who had a 0.028 rating in comparison; the Sedins and Manny Malhotra actually faced tougher competition in the regular season.

Prediction

Kesler, but it's going to be close. He had enough hype for this away earlier this season that it's hard to imagine him not winning it.

Our Ballot

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Patrice Bergeron(notes), Boston Bruins
Frans Nielsen(notes), New York Islanders
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Chara gets nominated for the Norris and Thomas for the Vezina, but the other part of that defensive trinity gets snubbed for the Selke? Bergeron was right behind Toews in faceoff winning percentage (56.6) and led the Bruins' penalty killing forwards in ice time (2:03). He was snubbed.

Nielsen was screwed because he was less than 50 percent on faceoffs (46.2) and because, well, he's an Islander. But he led the team in short-handed ice time (2:59), led the NHL in short-handed goals with seven and was a great shutdown forward for them.Very underrated, but he's also the kind of defensive forward that doesn't seem to make the cut for this award.

The Selke's been like the Norris for too long: Guys who defend, but also score. The last true defensive forward that won was Kris Draper(notes).

We don't regret the Datsyuk over Toews thing, because even down Datsyuk numbers are Datsuykian. But if you want to make the games-played argument, we'd understand.

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