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Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews Snubbed From Selke List?

By Mario Tirabassi
Mar 29, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) during a game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) during a game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews Left Off Selke List

On Thursday afternoon, the NHL announced the three finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward in the league. The finalists named were Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks. Both Bergeron and Kesler have won the award previously, with Kesler winning in 2010-11 and Bergeron winning in 2011-12, 2013-14, and last season (2014-15).

Missing from the finalists list was Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, another previous winner from the 2013 season. Upon first look, it seems that although only three finalists can be named, Toews probably wasn’t far off from being put into the finalist list. But after looking deeper into the statistics and into what we all love, the “fancy stats,” it would seem that Toews really was snubbed without the finalist nomination.

At the risk of sounding too much like a Blackhawks “homer” when it comes to the postseason NHL awards and if a Blackhawks player is left out of consideration, it’s a snub. (READ: Corey Crawford snubbed from Vezina list) Here is why Toews being left off the Selke nomination is also, yes, a Blackhawk snubbed.

Basic Stats Breakdown

Looking at the “basic” stats for the Selke award, which is basically driven towards the center position (Jere Lehtinen was the last non-center to win in 2002-03), Toews being left off of the finalists list makes no sense. Here is how the stats stack up for Toews and the three finalists:

  • Toews: (28G, 30A) – 58 points / +16 / 62 PIM / 9 PP Points / 7 SH Points / 25.4 Shifts Per Game / 58.6% Faceoff Wins
  • Bergeron: (32G, 36A) – 68 Points / +12 / 49 PIM / 25 PP Points / 3 SH Points / 26 Shifts Per Game / 57.1% Faceoff Wins
  • Kesler: (21G, 32A) – 53 Points / +5 / 78 PIM / 15 PP Points / 1 SH Point / 27 Shifts Per Game / 58.5% Faceoff Wins
  • Kopitar: (25G, 49A) – 74 Points / +34 / 16 PIM / 18 PP Points / 3 SH Points / 25.1 Shifts Per Game / 53.5% Faceoff Wins

Look at the basic stats that affect the center position, it’s more than likely a clear-cut Selke win for Anze Kopitar. With top numbers in points, plus/minus and accumulating the fewest number of penalty minutes, while also placing second in powerplay and shorthanded points, Kopitar may just win his first Selke Trophy after finishing in the top five of voting the past three years.

Bergeron finished second in points, fewest penalty minutes and shifts per game while leading in powerplay points. A three-time winner having finished in the top five of voting the past five years, Bergeron is the only player on the list that did not make the postseason.

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For Kesler, it looks puzzling why he would have edged Toews out of a nomination, based on just the basic stats. Finishing last in points, plus/minus and penalty minutes and adding the least offense while on the penalty kill, Kesler did have the highest average of shifts per game and had a faceoff win percentage just 0.1 percent behind Toews for second. If a player, especially one that is being considered for being the best defensive forward, gives up more penalties and has a lower plus/minus rating than another top contender and former winner, wouldn’t the player be passed over?

Obviously, plus/minus rating is one of the more contested stats as to whether or not it is a good measurement tool for a player’s performance. But isn’t having that wide of a gap between the top player (+34) and bottom player (+5) nominated concerning to any voter?

While Toews didn’t lead the players in question in total points, he did produce the most points while on the penalty kill of all four players and won faceoffs most frequently between the four as well.

Fancy Stats Breakdown

Getting into the deeper statistical breakdown, it becomes even less clear who should be the top three finalists for the Selke. Looking at statistics like hits, blocked shots, giveaway/takeaway ratio and faceoff percentages on the powerplay and penalty kill, Kesler begins to make up for his basic statistical shortcomings.

Here is the breakdown:

  • Toews: 81 Hits/ 38 Blocked Shots / 57 Takeaways / 28 Giveaways / 63.7 – PP FO% / 49.1 – PK FO%
  • Bergeron: 77 Hits / 56 Blocked Shots / 67 Takeaways / 34 Giveaways / 61.1 PP FO% / 51.2 – PK FO%
  • Kesler: 168 Hits / 92 Blocked Shots / 39 Takeaways / 34 Giveaways / 66.1 – PP FO% / 53.5 – PK FO% 
  • Kopitar: 78 Hits / 65 Blocked Shots / 43 Takeaways / 45 Giveaways / 64.3 – PP FO% / 49.8 – PK FO%

Looking at how the deeper stats figure into the conversation, Kesler gets back into the race by leading the four players in hits, blocks and special teams faceoff percentages, while Kopitar seems to lose ground by giving up the puck more than he gains the puck and by having a below 50 percent faceoff percentage on the penalty kill. Bergeron and Toews led the four players in possession numbers by having the higher ratios of takeaways and giveaways.

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What does all this mean? Well, first off, I don’t envy those who are responsible for making the nominee lists and naming the finalists. Statistically speaking, I still would go with Kopitar as the winner of the Selke award this season. Not because ‘It’s his year,’ but because of the impact he made offensively for the Kings while being defensively sound. None of the other three had the offensive season Kopitar had, while doing what he did defensively.

Was Toews snubbed? Maybe. But if he was to be added to the list of nominees, more than likely Kesler would be taken off the list to make it the third year in a row that Kopitar, Bergeron, and Toews would have headlined the Selke nomination.

So what do you think? Was this another Blackhawks snub or are the right players nominated for the Selke? Let us know in the comment section below.

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