The Selke is broken. Sean needs our help fixing it. While statistics are what will likely win the day for Jay, I firmly believe that while figures don’t lie, liars figure. The lack of clear quantitative and agreed upon numbers to define the greatest of the great defensive players will require we also look at the history and intent of the award to properly determine the type of individual who should be considered a Selke finalist. Hopefully others will take up the numbers game and in doing so show Jay deserves national credit for mastering a misunderstood role.
Let me discuss why I think the Selke is broken with a bit of history. The Selke is broken because won it last year. Now I hate red wings as much as any intelligent hockey fan, but the reason his selection indicates the award is broken is because Datsyuk should be ineligible for the Selke. He is ineligible in the exact same why he is ineligible for the Norris and the Vezina. Pavel, last season especially, was not a goalie, not a defenseman, and certainly not a defensive forward. The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. There is a period there; the defensive aspects period.
Looking back at the history of the Selke Trophy winners it seems there are three distinct eras; the golden age, the silver age, and the wtf age Let us start with the golden age The first award winner, and the only four time Selke winner was Bob Gainey. Bob was a first round draft pick of the Canadiens and developed almost immediately as a defensive stalwart. He won his four Selke Trophies consecutively while also picking up five Stanley Cups, the Canadien captaincy that he relinquished only upon retirement, and a Hall of Fame induction. He was once described by the father of Russian hockey, Anatoli Tarasov as the best all-around hockey player in the world. This first round potential and all- around game saw Bob surpass the 20-goal mark only three times in his 15-year career. Bob was committed to playing a team-first defensive style of hockey
After his playing days, Bob managed to find his way into the coaching and general manger ranks, taking the North Stars to the finals his first year as an NHL head coach, and eventually general managing the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup Championship.
The golden age would end with yet another Canadien defensive powerhouse, Guy Charboneau. Guy would win the Selke in 1988, 89 and 92. He would score over 20-goals only once in those three seasons and only once in his final ten NHL seasons he would spend with the Canadiens, Blues, and Stars. He also went one to captain the Canadiens and coach them. The major junior award for defensive forward play is named after Guy.
In between Bob and Guy were many deserving one-timers including the Blues only winner Rich Meagher and those who watched him play can attest he played defense vigorously, represented St. Louis expertly, and wore the Bluenote with pride. His place in hockey history rests upon his captaincy of the Blues and his Selke. Had that Selke been given to scorer in those years, Rick's hold on the interest of our youngest of fans would be even ghostlier than it is today. Rick, for those taking notes. didn't score 10 goals the year he won, and never scored 20 in the NHL. The Selke was designed exactly for Rick Meagher playing his best team-first checking role.
Doug Jarvis, the NHL's ironman leader, won for his 13-goal 1984 season. Doug would win the Masterton award three seasons later. He has four Stanley Cups as a player and one as an assistant coach. So all Doug did was show up every single game, put his team first, check to the best of his ability and persevere. The one thing Doug didn’t do a lot of was score.
Steve Kasper would win during a 20-goal campaign for the Boston Bruins; he would be yet another defensive minded player and Selke winner to get a chance to coach in the NHL after his career.
Bobby Clarke would win the award for a season in the middle of his remarkable career; he had previously won three Hart Trophies, the Masterton, the Lester Patrick, and the Lester B. Pearson Awards on his way to the hall of fame. The Selke was the last major award Bobby would win during his career, and represented his best goal output in seven seasons as his gradually declining offense and increased defensive presence still kept the Flyers a playoff threat. Bobby would end his career when the General Manager job opened in Philadelphia and put his knowledge and experience on both sides of the center ice to work building Flyer contenders.
Dave Poulin and Dirk Graham would win the award while being their respective team’s captains and having outstanding two-way seasons.
The only offensive explosion from the golden age of Selke would be Troy Murray. He would win in the middle of the golden age for a season that saw him net 45 goals and 99 points, career numbers he would not duplicate. This explosion did not, at that time, sway the Selke away form the purity of defensive forwards winning the award, that would slowly take place during the Silver Age of Selke.