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The Selke is one of the most bizarre awards in all of sports. In my opinion, it really should be prestigious, even more so than it already is. Having a forward that can shut down opposing players best offensive players and keep opponents from scoring goals is every bit as valuable as having players that score goals. However the difficulty in actually evaluating good defense across different teams is so hard that one player will get a reputation for good defense, and then go on to win the award for 3-4 years until people get tired of giving it to him and then move on to someone else. Either that or they look at +/- and just use that useless statistic. I want to take a look at some metrics that might help at least get people thinking about who should win the Selke.

First of all, I pretty much eliminated Wingers from consideration of the Selke. Not that they can't be good defensively, but the importance of face-offs and the defensive responsibility of centers pretty much makes centers the most important defensive forward on the ice at any time. So Centers only in this analysis.

more after the jump

So one of the most important jobs of the centers is winning face-offs, and most importantly defensive zone face-offs. So I took some data from Behind the Net's database. I looked at centers with 40+ games, and over 300+ Offensive and Defensive zone starts combined. (I would have done just over a certain number of face-offs, but Behind the Net's neutral zone face off numbers are a little wonky, so I had to improvise a little). I checked out the % of face-offs taken in the defensive zone, and the % of defensive zone face-offs won. Here's the top 30. Here's the stats:

 

NAME TEAM Total Face-offs % taken in defensive zone % Defense won
MIKEFISHER OTT 369 0.580 0.612
KAMILKREPS FLA 311 0.392 0.598
SCOTTNICHOL S.J 388 0.531 0.597
DAVIDSTECKEL WSH 398 0.492 0.597
MANNYMALHOTRA S.J 378 0.519 0.597
KEITHTKACHUK STL 367 0.469 0.593
SIDNEYCROSBY PIT 483 0.561 0.576
MIKKOKOIVU MIN 427 0.560 0.573
ERICBELANGER MIN 396 0.500 0.571
EVANDERKANE ATL 395 0.585 0.567
BRENDANMORRISON WSH 378 0.619 0.564
SAMUELPAHLSSON CBJ 486 0.504 0.563
JOHNMADDEN CHI 439 0.478 0.562
MARTYREASONER ATL 319 0.492 0.561
RICHPEVERLEY ATL 436 0.484 0.559
JONATHANTOEWS CHI 337 0.588 0.556
JEFFCARTER PHI 392 0.556 0.546
VERNONFIDDLER PHX 348 0.497 0.543
JAMESWRIGHT T.B 326 0.503 0.543
IANLAPERRIERE PHI 331 0.574 0.542
MAXIMLAPIERRE MTL 355 0.541 0.542
PATRICEBERGERON BOS 404 0.517 0.541
MICHALHANDZUS L.A 419 0.539 0.540
JAYMCCLEMENT STL 450 0.480 0.537
STEVEBEGIN BOS 383 0.546 0.536
DEREKROY BUF 370 0.530 0.536
RYANKESLER VAN 431 0.527 0.529
CRAIGCONROY CGY 330 0.533 0.528
VINCENTLECAVALIER T.B 430 0.605 0.527
PAVELDATSYUK DET 404 0.564

0.526

There's some really interesting things here.First, Mike Fisher is winning 61.2% of his defensive zone face-offs. That's phenomenal. Second, Look at Evander Kane, that's pretty damn impressive for a rookie. I really didn't expect to see Crosby with more than 50% of his Zone face-offs (offensive or defensive) taken in the defensive end.

Also: Hey look, Ian Laperriere is on the list, and no Avs are. I know we have pretty good centers here, but here's another place where Lappy would make the Avs better. I'm glad we penny-pinched with him.

Next I went ahead and looked at what center has the least shots against while on the ice, and then I'm going to cross reference with the above list to get my candidates:

 

NAME TEAM TOI/60 QUALCOMP QUALTEAM GAON/60 +/- On/60 SAON/60
NICKLASBERGFORS N.J 12.97 0.047 0.138 2.46 1.93 7.4
JONATHANTOEWS CHI 14.49 0.073 0.168 2.55 2.14 7.9
BRIANROLSTON N.J 13.61 0.054 0.065 2.26 1.9 8.2
JOHNMADDEN CHI 12.87 0.039 0.014 2.9 2.02 8.8
IANLAPERRIERE PHI 10.37 -0.038 0.056 2.65 2.39 8.9
TODDWHITE ATL 12.08 0.068 -0.211 3.24 2.96 9.1
TRAVISZAJAC N.J 14.78 0.102 0.502 1.93 2.15 9.1
PAVELDATSYUK DET 14.99 0.117 0.388 1.91 2.37 9.4
MANNYMALHOTRA S.J 11.76 -0.06 -0.103 3.02 2.44 9.5
MIKKOKOIVU MIN 14.32 0.031 0.154 2.11 2.63 9.5
CHRISKELLY OTT 11.3 -0.049 -0.292 2.47 2.61 9.7
RICHPEVERLEY ATL 12.89 0.041 -0.029 2.86 2.68 9.8
DAVIDKREJCI BOS 13.38 -0.05 0.095 2.02 2.29 10
SAKUKOIVU ANA 13.07 0.017 0.062 2.13 2.6 10.1
STEVEBEGIN BOS 11.53 -0.06 -0.132 2.4 2.26 10.1
ANTOINEVERMETTE CBJ 14.28 0.018 -0.139 1.91 2.67 10.2
RYANKESLER VAN 13.67 0.049 -0.078 2.62 1.76 10.2
HENRIKSEDIN VAN 14.27 -0.015 0.338 2.05 1.92 10.3
DAVIDBACKES STL 12.96 0.031 -0.016 2.07 2.64 10.4
MIKEFISHER OTT 13.4 0.142 0.248 2.36 2.97 10.4
BRYANLITTLE ATL 12.44 0.064 -0.061 2.98 3.02 10.5
R.J.UMBERGER CBJ 13.31 0.035 -0.07 2 2.52 10.5
SAMUELPAHLSSON CBJ 12.91 -0.014 -0.141 2.53 3.26 10.6
EVANDERKANE ATL 12.18 0.002 -0.204 2.75 2.86 10.7
DAVIDLEGWAND NSH 14.89 0.09 -0.248 2.66 2.21 10.8
JAMESWRIGHT T.B 9.64 0.038 -0.053 2.53 2.68 10.8
OLLIJOKINEN CGY 14.6 0.127 -0.086 2.13 2.1 10.8
DAYMONDLANGKOW CGY 13.71 -0.011 0.032 2.22 2.19 10.9
KEITHTKACHUK STL 10.97 0.017 -0.021 2.05 2.29 10.9
NICKLASBACKSTROM WSH 14.81 0.069 0.541 2.82 1.93 10.9

So that narrows down the list of Selke Candidates to a total of :

  • Jonathan Toews
  • John Madden
  • Ian Lapperiere
  • Pavel Datsyuk
  • Manny Malhotra
  • Mikko Koivu
  • Rich Peverley
  • Steve Begin
  • Ryan Kesler
  • Mike Fisher
  • Samuel Pahlsson
  • Evander Kane
  • James Wright
  • Keith Tkachuk

At this point in the race, based on these stats, we're splitting hairs here, but I think a couple numbers really stand out. First, Mike Fisher's 61.2% face-off percentage is just phenomenal, especially combined with surrendering only 10.4 Shots against /60. Manny Malhotra also has some stand-out numbers, with a 59.7% face-off percentage, and surrendering only 9.5 shots against. And of course, the two Chicago centers, Madden and Toews, both have outstanding numbers. Toews sub 8 SA/80 is nearly preposterous. I really think any of these guys would be acceptable winners:

Fisher
Koivu
Malhotra
Toews
Madden
Laperriere

But, gun to the head I'd pick these guys as the finalists:

Fisher
Toews
Malhotra

And my ultimate vote would probably be for Malhotra. But I haven't really accomplished what I set out to do, which is find a better way to select a Selke winner. However I think looking at these couple stats really helps narrow it down and strip some of the reputation from the award. At least if one of the final 7 won it it would be pretty justified.

Even if Datsyuk won again my only problem with Datsyuk winning would be that since he's won a couple times before, it would essentially be saying he's the dominant defensive center of our times. He's great, but he's not there. I know he should be judged based solely on this season, but I don't think he should win this season, so I'd be slightly perturbed if he won.