The finalists have been announced for all the major awards, but like every year there is much debate over who should take home each piece of hardware. In fact, with a shortened season and unorthodox playoff scenario, the views and reasoning behind each vote will perhaps vary even more wildly.
So as we get closer to the return of NHL hockey in Edmonton and Toronto, where 24 teams will try to chase the Stanley Cup, we’re going to ask you, the PHR faithful, to explain who you would vote for if given the chance.
After looking at the Calder Trophy finalists, Jack Adams nominees and Norris Trophy contenders, let’s shift our focus to the James Norris Memorial Trophy, given to “the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.” Despite being purely about defensive skill, the Selke is almost always given to a player who also excels at the offensive side of things. That makes it one of the most divisive major awards, especially since defensive acumen is so difficult to judge in many cases.
This year’s finalists are no different, with Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins also showing their strengths at the offensive end of the rink. The award also strongly leans towards the center position, which all three finalists are.
You have to start things with O’Reilly, given he took home the award a year ago. The Blues center has been one of the best faceoff men in the league for basically his entire career, posting a 55.4% win percentage over nearly 15,000 draws. He also is always available to help penalty kill, given he doesn’t take penalties—his ten PIM this season earned him another finalist spot in the Lady Byng voting.
O’Reilly won the award for the first time last season, but is up against the player who it may be renamed for one day. Patrice Bergeron has won the Selke four times in his career, finishing in the top-5 in each of the previous ten seasons. Taking his fifth trophy this year would move him ahead of Bob Gainey for the most all-time, a record that would be incredibly difficult to beat moving forward.
It’s easy to understand why Bergeron is always in the mix when you look at his incredible possession numbers, faceoff stats, and consistent takeaway totals. There are few players in history you’d rather want checking the opponent’s best talents, but Bergeon continues to just pour in 30-goal seasons year after year.
O’Reilly and Bergeron may be looking to repeat as winners, but they’ll have to defeat Couturier who has really taken over as the leader of the Flyers forward group. Once just known as a strong checking center, the 27-year old is now also an excellent offensive talent that rarely gives up the puck once he has it. Add that to his league-leading 59.7% faceoff percentage this season and it may finally be time for Couturier to win an individual award.
Perhaps more than any other award it is tough to know who came close to these three finalists, given how subjective the voting tends to be. Mark Stone, usually regarded as the best defensive winger in the game finished second last season and had another outstanding season in Vegas. Jonathan Toews, who won the award in 2013, had another strong year but has faded from Selke consideration in recent seasons. Sidney Crosby, whose defensive attributes are sometimes overlooked, played only 41 games and is likely to drop out of the top group.
Who do you think should take the 2020 Selke Trophy home? Feel free to vote outside the top three and explain your choice in the comments!
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