Normally we’d wait ‘till the season is close to over to talk about awards, but this year something a bit unusual has happened to the NHL:
There’s been a clear separation of the wheat from the chaffe when it comes to who should be given what award.
Pretty much most Hart conversation is between three guys, Vezina is all but locked up in Manhattan, and this year, the Selke might as well belong to Patrice Bergeron. In a way that we might not be entirely appreciating fully, and I wanted to take this time today to talk about the reasons why anybody trying to galaxy brain away Patrice’s rightful Sixth Selke award is mostly just blowing smoke.
...And also the last time I did this it happened way too late to maybe change somebody’s mind.
A season of absurd dominance:
Given that he’s been so good at this for so long, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that analytically Bergeron is the best skater on the team. Leads both defensemen and forwards in CF%, FF%, xGF%, and even High Danger-CF%, something I was sure either Pasta or Marchand would have come out on top of.
Where we’re getting a little nutty is where he starts stacking up to other players around him, and historically where his seasons are leading up.
There hasn't been enough Bergeron hype this season.— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 28, 2022
The Bruins have been unprecedentedly dominant in terms of shots, chances, and shot attempts when he's on the ice.
Not just compared to other players this season, but in any season since 2007-08. #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/QgEjNWpzfk
So yeah, having him out for the couple games they did have him out for was kinda deleterious to the team. He’s doing all of this at the age of 36. He’s missed plenty of playing time and is still doing ALL of this.
Absolutely, and Simply incredible. We are all very lucky to have him around. But the question is not necessarily how well is he doing, it’s how does the rest of the league, specifically a league that is probably in the race for Silver, try to stack up?
...Okay, who are beat writers desperately trying to prop up?
Pretenders Contenders to the Throne
The closest competitors for Bergeron this year will likely be guys like Auston Matthews, Aleksander Barkov, and Anthony Cirelli, but it looks like Matthews will likely see a major push; having a tear of a year as a dominant presence in the regular season, and given the unprecedented year he and the Leafs are having it’s quite easy to say “okay, maybe he’s finally the premiere two-way forward in the league”.
And while I’m sure Shawn will be very mad at me for interpreting the data this way and while I apologize in advance...I don’t see how Matthews gets anywhere other than a finalist amount of votes.
Now yes, using Evolving-Hockey’s Expected-Goals Against Replacement, both are currently in the 99th percentile of forwards in the league when it comes to shutting their competition down, and yes, Auston Matthews is definitely the higher scoring player of the two and that should definitely be given consideration...
...We’re not doing a Hart Trophy tally here. We’re going after a trophy that has historically made it out of the first round of the playoffs more consistently than the Hart over the past five years, and just by defensive numbers alone, Bergeron still comes out on top.
In every single relevant category for defense per 60 minutes of even strength hockey, in which the fewer shots unblocked or no against make it through, goals against, and expected goals against, nobody save for Cirelli even comes close to matching how hard it is to score while Patrice is on the ice, and even then.
Also he kills penalties so that’s a huge feather in Bergy’s cap that Matthews simply doesn’t get to see much of. Barkov kills penalties. Cirelli kills penalties. Bergy kills a lot of penalties. That’s kind of a prerequisite.
Why are we even running into this anyway?
Well, a lot of people seem to think this year will be Matthews’ coronation as goodest hockey boy of the year, we’ll see how that pans out. This is also because there’s some real cosmic brain level thinking going on in the minds of some PWHA writers that seem to believe that trophies for individual achievement are things we can just give out because we feel bad that a player isn’t being represented enough in the media because they’re outside the hockey media enclaves. This problem of course is that it would instead behoove those national writers to write more about those players and those teams because right now they’re the ones powering the Eastern and Western Conference, but that would also force them to actually learn and watch them, something it has been made clear they seem generally uninterested in doing and frankly we should be putting their feet to the fire over this, but I digress.
The point is that yes, in the past, this was kind of a nebulous award because a lot of it could be done through the eye test or whoever was just taking over shift over shift. The point is we don’t need the eye test as anything more than confirmation anymore. We have the stats. We have the numbers. We are no longer cavemen pointing at our rock televisions. We don’t need to give out participation versions of this trophy just because you feel bad that your company wanted more on how William Nylander had his Eggs Benedict than they did anything about a defensive dynamo in Tampa or Carolina. And besides, being a Selke finalist is a good thing! It’s a plaudit for their career and a boon on their next paycheck and possible next team! I sure as shit would want a Selke finalist more than a Hart finalist these days!
But we don’t need to be overthinking who is in the conversation, and we definitely don’t need to galaxy brain the winner.
Regardless of who you think is playing better this week, the numbers don’t lie.
And they spell the phrase “Patrice Bergeron wins the 2022 Frank J. Selke Award”.