News came down today that the three Selke candidates this season are Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler and Jonathan Toews. The first two are probably legitimate candidates. The latter, Toews, is just a very good hockey player who seems to have been nominated due more to reputation than anything else because he most certainly wasn’t deployed as a “defensive forward” this season.

The two best ways to gauge defensive responsibilities for NHL players is: where they start their shifts and who they regularly play against. The best defensive forwards in the league are asked to take more draws in their own end of the rink and they are frequently skated against the other teams best players. Guys like Frans Nielsen and Manny Malholtra were exhaustively deployed by their coaches in this manner all year. As was Datsyuk for that matter.

Jonathan Toews? Not so much. In fact, the opposite. The Blackhawks captain’s zone start ratio (offensive to defensive face-offs) was 61.2% this year. In raw numbers, Toews started out in the o-zone some 172 more times than the defensive end during the regular season. In contrast, Datsyuk’s zone start ratio was 47.7% or -21 in terms of differentials. To put Toews ratio in further perspective, his was the 17th easiest zone start amongst regular forwards in the entire league this season – with only 22 guys finishing with a ZS at 60% or above. In short, Quenneville put Toews in a position to score at even-strength, not to defend.

In addition, Toews wasn’t even tasked with the toughest defensive assignment on his team, let alone in the league. That assignment went to Dave Bolland, who was absolutely buried by Joel Quenneville. Bolland’s zone start was 34.2 (!!), one of the toughest gigs going this season. Bolland was also the guy most frequently assigned with facing the other teams top opposition, as he did during the first round in the playoffs versus the Sedin twins. In fact, I would argue that Dave Bolland was a more deserving candidate for this particular award than Toews.

None of this is to say Toews is a bad player. He boasted some good numbers in terms of take-aways, face-off percentage and averaged the second most time on his team amongst forwards in terms of penalty killing (behind…Dave Bolland), but the fact of the matter is Toews wasn’t deployed as a defensive option by his coach at even strength. Not even kind-of. He is therefore not a legitimate candidate for this particular award. An excellent player, to be sure. Just not a true Selke candidate (yet).

Comments (25)

  1. Hey – we should be happy the Selke voters have two legitimate candidates in three names.

    I wonder if the abstentions of the New York wing killed Nielsen’s chances.

  2. Kesler had a monster season but Maholtra looked like the shut down guy in Vancouver until he got hurt.

  3. 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; a.k.a. “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 (from

    And funny how you show what Datsyuk’s D-zone draws but not Kesler’s. I’m guessing that Maholtra took more since he was brought in to be the shut down guy.

    I’m not say that Kesler doesn’t deserve to win, he does and this is coming from a Blackhawks fan. But Toews is equally deserving to be nominated.

  4. Funny coming from a writer who’s team didn’t make the playoffs (Flames) Do you even watch hockey or just write things you blew out your ass?

  5. @ Kent Wilson is an idiot

    Now there is an iintelligent comeback. Please treat us to more.

  6. Hawks fans have been tooting Bolland’s horn for years, but no one has been listening. Not our fault if the rest of the league doesn’t really understand where the pieces fit on this team.

    On the further theme of not understanding where the pieces fit: QUALCOMP invalidates your argument. Of COURSE Kesler recorded a lower GAA than the other two, he often wasn’t on the ice against the best the other team offered! Stick Toews or Dats out against everyone’s third lines and see what happens.

    When the oppositions’ best forwards are on the ice, guess who is also on the ice? Toews. Pretty much invariably, which is actually a feat considering how nutso Q gets with lines. Because the man can backcheck like a beast and has a transition game second to none, perfectly designed to spring Kane again. (Actually, Bolland is thirty spots higher than any of the nominees at QUALCOMP. Toews is a measly two spots higher than Dats, and they’re both more than one hundred spots higher than Kes. TODD BERTUZZI faced more difficult competition than Kesler this year, for Christ’s sake. Todd. Bertuzzi. toddbertuzzi. And somehow Kes is a defensive forward while Toews isn’t? Exactly who’s getting relied upon for actual, you know, defense here?)

    Second most faceoffs in the League for Toews, and ALSO best FO%? check. (Ooh, more FOs AND more wins, AND against better people than Kes? Huh.) Second in the league in takeaways, WHILE STILL second in the league in QUALCOMP? Just like in the first round, Kesler may have been the worst player of this trio. It’s nice for him that he gets attention for his contributions because he plays in Canada, but the contributions don’t stand up to Toews or Datsyuk (who I wouldn’t be sorry to see win again, though they’ll be creating a ‘Lady Selke’ trophy in his honor if it happens, just to save time on the broadcasts). Kes wasn’t playing the tough guys, not by far. And he still didn’t out-stat these guys on the defensive metrics. What he did do was outscore them. Which… sort of argues against his being a defensive forward, yes?

  7. Look, you can twist statistics to say anything….I do it for a living. Fact being, you only used the statistics that benefitted your arguement in your article while providing scarce stats for the “legit” candidates.

  8. um…please enlighten us as to how many games Dave Bolland actually played in this year? JT was the Hawks #1 defensive C by a frikkin NY mile…and top PK’er, top of the league in faceoffs, +/-, etc Pay a little more attention

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