Skip to main content

Selke candidates contribute at both ends

by Dan Rosen

Between the three of them they scored 94 goals and dished out 138 assists. That's some pretty decent offense for a trio of forwards being recognized for their defensive prowess.

Than again, in Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and John Madden, the three candidates for this year's Frank J. Selke Trophy, given to the League's best defensive forward, you have three of the best two-way players in the game.

Datsyuk and Zetterberg have been known to lift the Detroit Red Wings with their offense, but that offense often is created by their near-flawless defense — which, most of the time, comes at the expense of the opposition's top line.

Madden is well-known as the New Jersey Devils' best shut-down forward and one of the best faceoff men on the planet. He is familiar with the Selke Trophy — he won it in 2001 and finished second in the voting in 2003 and 2004.

Datsyuk, a two-time Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner, and Zetterberg never have been Selke finalists. Odds are this won't be their last nomination.

Now let's break down their candidacy:

Of all the masterful numbers Datsyuk put up this season — and there were plenty of them — the two that stand out are his 144 takeaways, by far the most by anyone in the National Hockey League, and his League-best plus-41 rating.

This isn't to discredit his career-high 31 goals, including 10 on the power play and six game-winners, or his career-high 66 assists for a career-best 97 points, but most of those are due in large part to Datsyuk's remarkable defense.

Few players in the NHL can be as sneaky-good as Datsyuk. He has a tendency to trail the puck down the ice and wait for that one moment when he realizes his out-of-sight technique has made the rushing forward forget about him. He then pick-pockets the player and takes off the other way on a breakaway or odd-man rush.

The best part of Datsyuk's technique is he does it within the rules of the game. There's no hacking or whacking with his stick. He's like a snake, a silent predator, and before the rushing forward realizes it, he's the one falling behind in his backcheck.

Datsyuk also kept up his prowess in the faceoff circle by winning 453 of his 833 draws, which equates to better than 54 percent. He won better than 56 percent of his 845 faceoffs last season.

Datsyuk also played a major role on the Red Wings' penalty-kill, averaging 1:47 of shorthanded ice time per game. He hardly ever hurt his team either, committing just 10 minor penalties for 20 minutes in the box.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Datsyuk: "He's got the puck on a string. He's great offensively. He's great defensively. And our team wins. To me, being the best player means your team wins."

Like Datsyuk, Zetterberg generates his offense from his phenomenal defense. When Babcock puts these two together on a line, they're so dangerous no matter where they are on the ice.

Zetterberg also put up career-bests in goals (43), assists (49) and points (92). However, the numbers that have has earned him the Selke nomination were his plus-30 rating, 666 faceoff wins and 53 takeaways.

Zetterberg has gone from a 46-percent winner in the faceoff circle as a rookie to a 55-percent winner five seasons later. He went from taking only 401 draws in 2002-03 to 1,210 this season, and the time he spends in the circle now is a tribute to his prowess and work ethic.

Like Datsyuk, Zetterberg was a key component of the Red Wings' penalty-kill; he averaged 2:09 of shorthanded ice time per game. Also like Datsyuk, he rarely hurt his team with penalties: He committed only 17 minors for 34 minutes in the box.
"He's as good a two-way hockey player as there is in the League, and he might very well be the best," Babcock said of Zetterberg. "We match him up every night. He's a will guy. In the end, he's more determined than you and he's going to win out. That's a good thing to have. He competes on a daily basis to be the best player on our team. If you can be the best player on our team, you're going to be one of the best players in the National Hockey League."

The former Selke winner again spent the majority of his ice time as the center on the Devils' checking line, matched up against the other team's best forwards every night. And once again he had a masterful season, even contributing more offensively than ever before.

John is one of those guys that since Day 1 have played extremely well for this team. He's done everything that I've asked a player to do. - Devils head coach, Brent Sutter
Madden scored 20 goals for only the second time in his eight-year career. His 23 assists tied a career high, and his 43 points were a career best. After playing to a minus-7 rating a season ago, Madden was a plus-1 this season, no small feat on a team that didn't score much.

Madden's doggedness again showed up in the faceoff circle, where he had one of the best season's of any center. He won 786 draws, sixth-most in the NHL and good for a 53.7 winning percentage (786 of 1,463). He also had 76 takeaways, which was fifth in the NHL and bested Zach Parise for most on the Devils by 31.

As per usual, Madden was the Devils' most important penalty killer. He logged 3:35 of shorthanded ice time per game to lead New Jersey's forwards, and also registered four shorthanded points — three goals and an assist.

"John is one of those guys that since Day 1 have played extremely well for this team," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "He's done everything that I've asked a player to do."

Contact Dan Rosen at

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.