Friday evening we found out this year’s winner of the Frank J. Selke Trophy. This annual award is given to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game” and is voted upon by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA). For the tenth straight season, Boston Bruins‘ center Patrice Bergeron was in the top three as a finalist.
Yes, you read that correctly. Bergeron has been a finalist for the award for each of the last 10 seasons, dating back to when he won his first of four Selke’s back in 2011-12. Of these 10 times, Bergy has won the award four times, placed third just twice, and has finished as the runner-up four times.
As many already know, Bergeron’s four Selke’s is tied for the record of most won in a career with Bob Gainey who played for the Montreal Canadiens. So, the next time Bergeron wins the Selke will be a record-setting fifth time.
This time should have been Friday. However, the PHWA felt that Florida Panthers’ center Aleksander Barkov was better, and evidently much better, as he finished 258 points ahead of Bergy in the voting. Barkov received 62 first-place votes compared to Bergeron’s 15.
It’s pretty clear the NHL and PHWA are afraid to give Patrice Bergeron the record for most Selke Trophies won in a career.
I can tell you right now that the voting for the Selke is a joke. There are 100 total members of the PHWA, which means Bergeron should’ve gotten a total of 100 votes as he was clearly a top-five defensive forward in the NHL this season.
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Bergeron only received 89 total votes in this year’s voting. This means that 11 voters didn’t think he was good enough defensively to be put on their ballot as a top-five defensive forward. These votes obviously wouldn’t have helped Bergeron win as Barkov had such a big lead, but it’s still embarrassing to see this.
However, in regard to Barkov, Bergeron was actually better defensively. Bergeron won over 62% of his faceoffs compared to Barkov’s 54.9%. Bergeron also beat Barkov in defensive categories such as expected goals against, shots on goal against, unblocked shots against, total shots against, shorthanded defense goals above replacement (GAR), even-strength defense GAR, and overall defense GAR.
Bergeron literally beat Barkov in almost every defensive stat. Bergeron Corsi-against per 60 was better, his Fenwick-against per 60 was better (per Hockey Reference), and his defensive wins above replacement (WAR) was better — which is shown in this tweet below (charts via @JFreshHockey).
So how exactly did Barkov beat Bergeron for this year’s Selke? I think it comes down to two reasons.
First, the NHL and PHWA are afraid to give Bergeron the record. Gainey won the first four Selke Trophies and they are afraid of the backlash they’ll get when Bergeron breaks his record. After all, Gainey was a Hab, and Habs and Bruins fans don’t get along very well.
Second, the PHWA is tired of voting for the same guy year after year. As I mentioned earlier, Bergeron has now been a finalist for the award in 10 straight seasons. Could some of the voters not be voting for him as they are tired of him? I think it’s possible.
Anyway, yeah, Barkov was good defensively this season. However, he clearly wasn’t better than Bergeron. With that said, it’s quite obvious Bergeron was robbed of his record-setting fifth Selke Trophy.