The Chicago Blackhawks have other hardware on their mind as they continue to tangle with the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but on Thursday, one of their players found out he is officially in the running for another trophy when the offseason begins.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews was named as one of three finalists for the Frank J. Selke Award, given to the league's best defensive forward.
Toews won the award last season for the first time and has been nominated in three of the past four seasons for the prestigious honor.
Toews is joined as a nominee by Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins.
The odds of Toews winning the award for a second consecutive season appear slim, however. Bergeron was viewed as a snub in the eyes of some media experts last season when Toews won, and so there might be an element of payback there. In addition to the motivations for voting, some defensive metrics do favor Bergeron by quite a bit over the Hawks' captain. Here's a chart explaining one of the more interesting comparisons:
Basically, this chart looks at zone starts on the X-axis and quality of competition (QOC) on its y-axis. The more times a player starts a possession in the offensive zone, the further right on the chart his dot goes. The higher quality of competition a player faces when he's on the ice, the higher on the chart he gets. Toews does best Bergeron by a good amount in the latter category, but the Bruins center blows Toews out of the water when it comes to how often he starts possessions in the offensive zone.
Having a really low number like Bergeron does means that the Bruins are often starting him in the neutral and defensive zones for possessions, meaning that the onus on him to play defense is even stronger than it is for Toews.
In a hockey sense, the higher number of offensive zone starts for Toews makes sense. He is one of the most offensively skilled forwards on the Hawks, and they need him to start possessions in that zone so that he can help them to score goals. Bergeron is a talented center as well, but he isn't quite the caliber of Toews in that department. The Blackhawks also tend to start their possessions in the offensive zone more than other teams because of their emphasis on puck possession and taking a lot of shots. This does skew the numbers a bit for all the players on the team, so Toews is fighting a bit of a losing battle with this metric as a result.
That being said, this is an award for defensive play at the forward position, so if one is going to base their argument for who should win the award based on these kind of defensive metrics, then Bergeron should win over Toews. We will find out how the voting, done by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, shook out when the NHL Awards are handed out in Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 24th.