For the past six years, the Frank J. Selke award has been awarded to three different players. Patrice Bergeron has won it four times in that span, along with Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews, each winning it once. Essentially, this award has become Bergeron’s to lose. He is an elite two-way forward that epitomizes what a Selke winner should be.
Over the past four years including this one thus far, Bergeron has amassed 83 goals, 113 assists, 198 even strength blocks, and 211 takeaways. Those are Selke numbers. In the same regard, Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Koitar has 70 goals, 159 assists, 194 even strength blocks and 123 takeaways. The other winner in that six year span, Jonathan Toews, has 86 goals, 118 assists, 118 even strength blocks and 133 takeaways.
Those are the ideal numbers if you want to win a Selke. You need to maintain solid numbers on offense, but prove that you can be a prolific defender as well. The Selke trophy is essentially for the most well-rounded forward. If that is the case, then why is it that Sean Couturier hasn’t been a finalist for the award yet?
Honestly, that’s an easy question to answer. Couturier has always had the defensive part of it down. Who can forget the series against Pittsburgh where he make Evgeni Malkin a complete nonfactor? Couturier was 19 years old when he did that. Ever since then, he has been held in very high regard within the Flyers organization. His years in juniors showed just how offensively dominant he could be, and he showed the world how much of a defensive presence he is against the Penguins that year.
The talk about Couturier contending for a Selke peaked in 2015-16 when he came in 8th place for voting. He accrued 39 points while laying 31 hits, blocking 30 even strength shots, and having 27 takeaways. The future was looking brighter than ever, until an injury derailed his momentum the very next season. He only played in 66 games during the regular season.
Then, at the beginning of this season, things started looking up. Hakstol shifted the lines and put Couturier between Giroux and Voracek on the top line. That ended up being the smartest thing he could have done, because Couturier already has matched a career high in goals, and is only nine points off his career high for a season. Couturier is having a coming out party, and we’re all witnessing it. It’s not too farfetched to think that by the end of the year, Coots could end up somewhere between 50-60 points, maybe more.
If Couturier ends up with 60 points, does that put him in elite company with Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews? Should Couturier be considered a finalist for the Selke trophy is he continues putting up offensive numbers at the rate he is? Of course he should be considered. When you look at the numbers right now between the four aforementioned players, there are a lot of similarities.
Given that Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews are frontrunners for the Selke again this year, you are looking at between the three, and average of 11 goals, 16 assists for a 27 point average, and a 21 blocked shots average and 26 takeaways on average. Right now, Sean Couturier is above average in goals and points, but slightly below in the other categories. At the rate he is going, and with the fact that the Flyers are playing much better than they were previously, it’s not crazy to think that he could put up better numbers than that trio.
Do I expect Couturier to be a finalist? No, I don’t like getting my hopes up. Would I be surprised if I saw him get nominated into the top three? Of course not, because he deserves it. If Coots continues at the pace he is going, I fully expect to see him in the top three for the Selke trophy. If he doesn’t so be it, the kid is 25 years old, he still has plenty of time to stake his claim as the best defensive forward in the NHL.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports