Selke Trophy Finalists: Patrice Bergeron vs. Anze Kopitar vs. Jonathan Toews

Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks are the three finalists for the 2013-14 Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” the National Hockey League announced on Thursday.

The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on the award, and these are the top three vote-getters.

Toews won the award last season, while Bergeron won it in 2011-12. This is Kopitar’s first appearance as a finalist, coming in fourth in the voting last season.

Before we break down the finalists, let’s talk about criteria.

The Selke is, for my money, the NHL Award that most lends itself to advanced stats. That’s a good thing, because it’s an award that shouldn’t simply be judged on faceoff wins, plus-minus and shorthanded ice time.

And yet, if you read the descriptions of the finalists, that’s pretty much all that’s mentioned.

This isn’t to say that the PHWA voters followed these old tropes as a guide to their nominations; I can say for a fact that I know a few dozen voters that take things like corsi rel, zone starts and quality of competition into account for their Selke and Norris voting. It’s to say that the NHL, in its press materials for this award, doesn’t mention any of those metrics does a disservice to the nominees.

What’s more impressive? Knowing that Bergeron is a plus-38 or knowing that his team produces 9.7 percent more shots than their opponents when Bergeron is on the ice vs. when he’s off?

Hopefully the League can catch up to its voters when it comes to measuring the success of its awards nominees.

So who wins the Selke?

Why Patrice Bergeron Deserves The Selke

From the NHL:

Bergeron led the NHL in face-off wins with 1,015 -- the most by any player in the past seven seasons -- as the Bruins posted the best defensive record in the Eastern Conference and second-best in the League overall (2.08 goals per game). He ranked second in the NHL in plus-minus with a career-high +38 rating and led all Bruins forwards in average ice time playing shorthanded (1:57). Bergeron is a Selke Trophy finalist for the third consecutive season; he captured the award in 2012 and finished runner-up to Toews in 2013.

That faceoff win total is pretty incredible when he consider that Bergeron starts 34.4 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone, more than any other Bruin, including Zdeno Chara. What an asset for the Bruins.

Why Anze Kopitar Deserves The Selke

From the NHL:

Kopitar appeared in all 82 games and logged more ice time (1,712:45) than all NHL forwards except Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the club that allowed a League-low average of 2.05 goals per game. He logged the most shorthanded time (164:53) among the League's top 30 scorers, led the Kings and tied for fourth in the NHL in plus-minus with a career-high +34 rating and won 53.3% of his 1,451 face-offs. Kopitar is a Selke Trophy finalist for the first time and becomes the first Kings player in franchise history to garner a Selke nomination.

West Coast Guilt prevails! Just kidding … although the campaigning for Kopitar from the left coast was palpable. Luckily, he's earned it: Kopitar is the best possession forward on the team and his line draws the toughest defensive assignments.

Why Jonathan Toews Deserves The Selke

From the NHL:

Toews placed fifth in the NHL in both face-off wins (884) and percentage (57.2%) in taking 1,544 draws, nearly double the total of the next Blackhawks center. He topped all Chicago forwards in average ice time per game (20:28) and ranked second on the club in takeaways (51) and plus-minus (+26), including a cumulative +7 rating against top Conference rivals Anaheim, Colorado, St. Louis and San Jose. A Selke finalist for the third time in four years, the Blackhawks captain is in quest of a repeat win after capturing the award for the first time in 2012-13.

Like his fellow nominees, Toews draws the toughest defensive assignments among Blackhawks forwards and his possession numbers are by far the best on the team. Like Bergeron, a defensive player whose prowess is evident on every shift.

Who Wins The Selke?

Bergeron. If it wasn’t for Toews we could be witnessing a Lidstrom-like run of Selke wins for one of the best faceoff men in NHL history. Bergy gets his second Selke this season.

Our Ballot

1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Cap …

… Wait, that was our discarded one, hang on …

1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

2. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

3. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

4. Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado Avalanche

5. David Backes, St. Louis Blues

Bergeron’s on another planet. Kopitar doesn’t have Toews’ faceoff numbers, their quality of competition figures are negligible, but the way Kopitar drives possession for the best defensive team in the West, combining defense with offense, puts him in the second slot. O’Reilly led the league in takeaways (83) and played a solid 200-foot game this season. Backes defers to Vlad Sobotka as the Blues’ faceoff leader but his line drew the toughest defensive assignments for St. Louis.