22 January 2010
The Selke is one of the most bizarre awards in all of sports. In my opinion, it really should be prestigious, even more so than it already is. Having a forward that can shut down opposing players best offensive players and keep opponents from scoring goals is every bit as valuable as having players that score goals. However the difficulty in actually evaluating good defense across different teams is so hard that one player will get a reputation for good defense, and then go on to win the award for 3-4 years until people get tired of giving it to him and then move on to someone else. Either that or they look at +/- and just use that useless statistic. I want to take a look at some metrics that might help at least get people thinking about who should win the Selke.
First of all, I pretty much eliminated Wingers from consideration of the Selke. Not that they can't be good defensively, but the importance of face-offs and the defensive responsibility of centers pretty much makes centers the most important defensive forward on the ice at any time. So Centers only in this analysis.
more after the jump
So one of the most important jobs of the centers is winning face-offs, and most importantly defensive zone face-offs. So I took some data from Behind the Net's database. I looked at centers with 40+ games, and over 300+ Offensive and Defensive zone starts combined. (I would have done just over a certain number of face-offs, but Behind the Net's neutral zone face off numbers are a little wonky, so I had to improvise a little). I checked out the % of face-offs taken in the defensive zone, and the % of defensive zone face-offs won. Here's the top 30. Here's the stats:
|NAME||TEAM||Total Face-offs||% taken in defensive zone||% Defense won|
There's some really interesting things here.First, Mike Fisher is winning 61.2% of his defensive zone face-offs. That's phenomenal. Second, Look at Evander Kane, that's pretty damn impressive for a rookie. I really didn't expect to see Crosby with more than 50% of his Zone face-offs (offensive or defensive) taken in the defensive end.
Also: Hey look, Ian Laperriere is on the list, and no Avs are. I know we have pretty good centers here, but here's another place where Lappy would make the Avs better. I'm glad we penny-pinched with him.
Next I went ahead and looked at what center has the least shots against while on the ice, and then I'm going to cross reference with the above list to get my candidates:
So that narrows down the list of Selke Candidates to a total of :
- Jonathan Toews
- John Madden
- Ian Lapperiere
- Pavel Datsyuk
- Manny Malhotra
- Mikko Koivu
- Rich Peverley
- Steve Begin
- Ryan Kesler
- Mike Fisher
- Samuel Pahlsson
- Evander Kane
- James Wright
- Keith Tkachuk
At this point in the race, based on these stats, we're splitting hairs here, but I think a couple numbers really stand out. First, Mike Fisher's 61.2% face-off percentage is just phenomenal, especially combined with surrendering only 10.4 Shots against /60. Manny Malhotra also has some stand-out numbers, with a 59.7% face-off percentage, and surrendering only 9.5 shots against. And of course, the two Chicago centers, Madden and Toews, both have outstanding numbers. Toews sub 8 SA/80 is nearly preposterous. I really think any of these guys would be acceptable winners:
But, gun to the head I'd pick these guys as the finalists:
And my ultimate vote would probably be for Malhotra. But I haven't really accomplished what I set out to do, which is find a better way to select a Selke winner. However I think looking at these couple stats really helps narrow it down and strip some of the reputation from the award. At least if one of the final 7 won it it would be pretty justified.
Even if Datsyuk won again my only problem with Datsyuk winning would be that since he's won a couple times before, it would essentially be saying he's the dominant defensive center of our times. He's great, but he's not there. I know he should be judged based solely on this season, but I don't think he should win this season, so I'd be slightly perturbed if he won.
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