Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Wacky Frank J. Selke Trophy

Always a puzzling array of nominees for this one, I've never understood it. And I have no idea who makes the nominations. Does anyone know?

Anyhow, according to the NHL:
The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.

As for Frank himself, he is most famous as the long term g.m. of the Habs in the 40s, 50s and 60s, and is also a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. His bio described him as an "avid chicken fancier", hmmm.

I have no idea how the writers that vote for this award make their decision. Myself, I'd vote for a guy that plays a lot against the other teams best players, and doesn't surrender many goals when he's out there. And is an outscorer at 5on5. As well he should be the player that the coach trusts the most to play the critical minutes when his team is clinging to a lead ... the own zone draws against the other teams top players and the dying minutes with the other team's goalie pulled. Also I'd consider the role the guy has on the PK, you'd expect him to be in the top four in PK icetime for the forwards on his team I'd think, and to have done well in that role. but that's just me.

I remember Jim Matheson writing an article in the Journal at the midpoint of the season and making his own choices for the awards up to that point. I remember he had selected Daniel Alfredsson as a Selke candidate. That surprised me, and it stuck with me because it was so sensible.

Anyhow, I don't like to pick on Mike Fisher, but I will here. He 's been nominated for the Selke this season. Now surely Alfredsson and Fisher did not both play the hard minutes, that just wouldn't make sense unless they played together a lot, and it appears that they did not.

So, I arbitrarily picked Jan.1 as a start date, rolled through the Sens home schedule and picked the game #s for all the teams that they played who had a clear, identifiable star player. The kind of guy that Murray's gameplan would surely be built around.

And here ya go, only as accurate as the shift charts:

By way of example: Thornton played 12.7 minutes of 5on5 hockey when the Sharks visited Ottawa in January. 3.4 minutes of that (27%) was against Mike Fisher.

Overall that's about a 20% clip.
i.e. 20% of these star player's total 5on5 icetime in these games was played against Fisher.

I haven't checked, but if you ran the Oiler numbers for the same opponents I suspect that only Laraque, Harvey, Stoll and Torres clock in at 20% or less by the same metric.

Anyone can do the same for Lehtinen and Brind'Amour (both good players no doubt) ... and I suspect that Modano is clearly the guy who should be getting Selke consideration in DAL, and because Brind'Amour's numbers are so good ... I suspect it's either a perfect storm of .985 EVsave% behind him, or more likely he played softer minutes than expected this year. (Cole, before his injury, would be my guess for CAR).

BTW: The Draper nomination and win last season was nonsensical IMHO. Though he is a nice guy who had a helluva offensive year, so c'est la vie. Back to tough minutes for him this year though, yowza!.

Just ran a quick script to check Brind'Amour's icetime in the second game of each series (picked them because Koivu was healthy and all were close games played at the RBC). And Rod is clearly the man, played a bit over half of the icetime against Koivu, Elias and Briere, pretty consistently. That's not a hard match, but close. I assume that he was used that way quite a bit in the regular season too, though either the Staal line was thrown into the deep end at times by Laviolette or they were shooting at their own goalie :-) because they were on the ice for a boatload of goals against at 5on5.


Anonymous lowetide said...

In the summer, I'd like to suggest we go through these awards year by year.

NHL voters have been right on the obvious (Parent, Hasek) but have passed on some stellar performers.

Great post, vic.

5/27/2006 8:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wrap my head around the Selke either. Perhaps the problem is the breaking of categories. A goalie is pretty obviously a defense-first player, even if guys like Brodeur (and Roloson, it turns out) can think offense occasionally. If you're explaining the game of hockey to the newcomer you often say the defender is there to stop the other team from scoring (uhh, that's why he has the name "defenseman, ya see?"). Pretty clean categories for those. But forwards aren't called "offenseman". Compare: football. Now you probably could calculate point differentials for all football players, but the categories of defense vs offense seem quite a bit clearer for them due to the posession rules. Not so clear for hockey.

Mind you, as an Oiler fan living through the 80s, I always inherently thought a forward's job was to score goals. I put the Selke on par with the Lady Byng. Squarely in the "WTF?" slot.

Now, I like to think of the Selke as the award that should go to the player with the good positive goal differential against tough opposition but has little or no offense to their game. Guys like Modano don't qualify because they can earn their goal differential with a set of hands and good vision (or both). If I ruled the NHL you'd need to have, for example, Todd F. N. Marchant's hands (or worse) to qualify for a Selke.


5/31/2006 10:05 pm  

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