By Allan Muir
The league announced today that Boston's Patrice Bergeron, Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, and Chicago's Jonathan Toews are the three finalists for the 2012-13 Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game."
Nary a "knock me over with a feather" nominee in that bunch. The Selke has taken a few hits over the years as being a reputation-based award, but this trio burnished their well-established reps for two-way excellence with undeniably strong seasons.
When the vote counts are revealed, it won't be a surprise to learn this was the year's most hotly contested hardware. You can't make an argument against any of these guys.
MORE NOMINEES: Hart | Norris | Vezina | Calder | Lindsay | Masterton
What did Bergeron do to defend his 2012 Selke win? Well, he was the NHL's top face-off man, having won 62.1 percent of his draws. He ranked sixth overall with a plus-24 rating, and was Boston's top center on both the penalty kill and power play. He finished fourth on the team in scoring while routinely matched up against the opposition's top forwards.
Pavel Datsyuk, a three-time winner and finalist for the sixth consecutive season, may be the most entertaining player in hockey, as well as the most well-rounded. He tied for the league lead with 56 takeaways, won 55 percent of his draws, and was a sturdy plus-21. Datsyuk also finished in a tie for 10th in the NHL scoring race after netting 49 points, and was second overall with six game-winning goals.
Toews, though, may have put up the best all-around case. It's tough to overstate his importance to a team that won the Presidents' Trophy and had the league's stingiest defense (allowing just 2.02 goals per game). He tied Datsyuk for most takeaways, finished second to Bergeron in face-off percentage (59.9), and was third in the NHL with a career-high plus-28 rating. He also leads the league in intangibles. They're hard to define, but the voters know they like 'em.
So, who wins it? The smart money is on Toews. Some were surprised that he didn't finish among the three Hart Trophy finalists, but his candidacy there was damaged by vote-splitting between him and teammate Patrick Kane. No sign of Kane in this discussion, so Toews gets to keep all the pro-Chicago love to himself. And since both the Hart and Selke are awarded by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, it's a good bet that conflicted voters used the Selke as a consolation prize for burying Toews on their Hart ballots or leaving him off altogether.
We'll find out who wins during the Stanley Cup Final.
The finalists for the last three awards will be announced over the next week. Here's the remaining schedule:
Thursday, May 16: Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (skill/sportsmanship)
Friday, May 17: Jack Adams Award (top head coach)
Monday, May 20:
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone (player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice)