19 March 2010
One of the NHL awards I am probably overly concerned with is the Selke trophy. It just seems like if the NHL is going to go through the trouble of having an award, there might as well be some kind of criteria to deciding who should win it. So in January I took a look at how centers did at both defensive zone face-offs and tried to cross reference that with how they did with Shots against/60 and Goals against/60 and tried to see which forwards, specifically centers, were doing the best job of winning face-offs (a key to preventing shots) and also, well, preventing shots courtesy of the treasure trove of statistics over at Behind the Net.
Unfortunately, in my January piece I'm almost certain I made a copy-paste error which led to some very skewed results. Mike Fisher's 60+% defensive zone faceoff should have been a clue, but the SA/60 under 10 should have set off alarms. Here I'll try and rectify the previous errors, and give a solid look at some of the best defensive forwards.
more after the jump
I start with the top Defensive zone face-off% (minimum 60 games played, TOI/game >10min), as the best and easiest way to keep your team from being scored upon is to win the face-off and possess the puck. Below is a table that lists the Total face off percentage, Defensive face-off percentage, and the Defensive & Neutral zone face off percentage (all at 5 v 5). The table includes the top 40 in Defensive zone face-off percentage. Ignore the green highlights for now, as those will make more sense when the next table is posted.
Forwards have little control over whether the the goalie makes the save or not, but they can help control whether a shot is taken on goal or not. So I used Behind the Net, again, to look at the the forwards who have been able to limit the number of shots taken against their goalie. I decided to cross reference the face-off leaders with the top 40 centers in SA/60 (shots against while on ice per 60 minutes of play) below, and that's the green highlight below.
Now we have 17 players who show up on both lists of 40. I have included other stats in both tables so that we can do some tie-breaking. But here's your list of 17:
Kyle Wellwood (no seriously)
Some surprising names on the list: Wellwood, Mueller and Stajan both stand out to me as names I wouldn't have guessed to be on this list.
But the name that just stands out, to me, Is Jonathon Toews. He's one of 2 players who are holding their opponents to less than 20 shots per 60, which is amazing. He's winning 56.4% of his defensive zone face-offs, and 54.3% of his defensive+neutral zone faceoffs, and plays 14m30s a night. He has high quality teammates, which helps, but he's also facing high quality competition (in fact he's 4th on the Blackhawks for Quality of competition.). So he's facing the best players the other team has to offer, and he's still absolutely dominating them in his own zone, plus he has substantial offensive contributions as well. To me that's a Selke Winner.
My second place vote would probably go to Ryan Kesler of Vancouver. He's winning an amazing 56.6% of his defensive zone draws, and 55.5% of his defensive+neutral zone draws. He's tied for first on the team in Quality of competition faced, so he's going up against the opposition's toughest lines, yet while on the ice opponents are getting only 25.2 shots/game. I realize this is 11th among the 17 listed above, but guys above him only Jeff Halpern can claim to face the same level of competition shift-in and shift out as Kesler. Also Halpern plays 2 less minutes per game, and Halpern is only winning 54.9% of his face-offs.
There's about 5 candidates I could give this theoretical vote to, but Halpern would probably get the vote from me. I am a little turned off by how little he plays (11min/game) but when he plays he's every bit as good a shutdown center as anyone he's allowing 24.4 shots per game, and is facing the toughest competition of anyone on the Kings. That means the lines he's facing the most are: Heatly-Thornton-Marleau, Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan, Shane Doan-Matthew Lombardi, and Morrow-Richards-Ericsson, which is probably the best top lines for any division in the league, and he's holding them off the board. It's hard to think that the Kings would be where they are without Halpern on the roster. He's been quietly stellar, and being a Selke finalist would be great recognition.
Mikko Koivu (MIN) - Minnesotas best player, is solid defensively and really is a Selke candidate every season. I would have no qualms with him winning the Selke either.
John Madden (CHI)- A man who has made his career being a defensive forward, gives Chicago two of the top 5 defensive forwards in the game.
Niklas Bergfors (ATL/NJ)- Maybe Atlanta knew what they were doing when they got Bergfors put into the deal for Kovalchuk. The rookie, that's right rookie,is winning 52.7% of his defensive zone face-offs, which has led to him having a SA/60 of 25.1. Too bad he went to Atlanta, which is as ignored in voting as Western Conference teams, or else he could be the next 3-time winner of the Selke. An incredibly impressive rookie campaign that also has a good chance of including 20 goals.
Pavel Datsyuk (DET): The 3 time reigning Selke winner is a great defensive forward. He's good, but he does get quite a bit of help from his teammates. Not sure he's one of the most dominant defensive forwards of all time, as 3 Selkes would imply, but he's a very very good defensive forward.
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