Rule of Two: The 13–14 Selke


Last month, Jewels from the Crown published a story stating that Bergeron and Kopitar were basically the only two Selke worthy players in the NHL this season (I’m sure there are many other articles with the same claim, but I didn’t bother to look). With almost 300 forwards in the league, there must be more. I set out to make a top 5, and devised my own data matrix to determine who might be worthy of Selke attention. I first looked at 5 categories: Corsi, Corsi relative to team, Fenwick, Fenwick relative to team, and Plus-minus. I don’t like Plus-minus, but the Professional Hockey Writers' Association voters look at it, and traditional analysts (and many fans) still weight the stat heavily. For each category, I took the top 5 players only. The top player in each category gets 50 points, second 40, third 30, fourth 20, and fifth gets 10 points. This gives a total of 250 top place points possible. After distributing the points, I gave a percentage of what each player got relative to 250. The theory is that this gives the likelihood that on any given night during the 13-14 season, the particular player ranked would be the best defensive forward in the league. This is my own data matrix, which may or may not be the least bit scientific. I’m standing by it. After running the numbers, many players were removed. The numbers don’t tell the full story as we all know. Some players benefit too heavily from their line mates: Brad Marchand, Justin Williams, and Tyler Toffoli; two players have artificially inflated numbers (they don’t kill penalties or start in the defensive zone): Jussi Jokinen and Jakub Voracek; three players showed up on the list because of Plus-minus alone, which is more of a team stat: David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Corey Perry.

At first blush, this gave me my top 5:

  1. Patrice Bergeron (92% likely to be the best defensive forward in the league)
  2. Anze Kopitar (40%)
  3. Zach Parise (36%)
  4. Mikko Koivu (24%)
  5. Daniel Sedin (4%)

However, while Parise, Koivu and Sedin all kill penalties, their numbers are still inflated due to the fact that they almost never start in the defensive zone. To compare: Bergeron starts in the defensive zone more than any other forward on his team, and Kopitar is tied for first. Parise is last, Koivu is tied for second to last, and Sedin is tied for last.

After removing all the inflated players, I reran my matrix and redistributed the points. I was left with only two:

  1. Patrice Bergeron (99.9%)
  2. Anze Kopitar (40%)

Bergeron’s percentage basically hits 100%, while Kopitar remains the same. This is because Kopitar benefits more from his team, while the Bruins benefit more from Bergeron (Corsi and Fenwick relative), therefore awarding Bergeron a few more points after the inflated players were removed.

I can now say with certainty that Jewels from the Crown was accurate, but I was determined to come up with a top 5. Bergeron and Kopitar have been so dominant defensively that it was proving to be a nearly impossible task. I expanded my matrix significantly to include more (a lot more) players. I had to adjust the percentages (more players and therefore more possible points).

Finally, (and without further adieu) here are the top five likely players to be the best defensive forwards on any given night during the 13-14 season:

  1. Patrice Bergeron (96%)
  2. Anze Kopitar (50%)
  3. Joe Thornton & Mikael Backlund (10%)
  4. Vladimir Sobotka (8%)
  5. Sidney Crosby (4%)

For those wondering: Toews was axed because his zone sheltering was on par with Parise, Koivu and Sedin, who were axed for the same reason.

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