Awarded annually to the NHL forward that demonstrates the most defensive skill is the Frank J. Selke Award. The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association vote in a poll after the NHL regular season. Over history, this trophy has been awarded 35 times to 23 different players. Most recently, Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues earned the Selke Award. After the 2019-2020 season, there would have been a new Selke Award winner.
Through his entire NHL career, Sean Couturier has only once not been voted for the Frank J. Selke Award. That was in 2012-2013, his worst season in the NHL and the only time he played less than fifty games. On four separate occasions, Couturier finished in the top ten votings for the Selke Award. In 2017-2018, he finished second overall in the Selke Award voting after playing every game that season. Here are five reasons why “Couts” should win the Selke Award for the 2019-2020 season:
He Led In Votes Midway Through 2019-2020
On January 23rd, 2020, Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association top votes for each award at the midway point of the 2019-2020 season. In that report, when looking at the names in correlation with the Frank J. Selke Award, Sean Couturier was the frontrunner. Following Couturier were Patrice Bergeron and the reigning Selke Award winner, Ryan O’Reilly. With the names that Hall reported among the top votes from the PHWA for the Selke Award, Couturier and Bergeron are neck-and-neck. Head-to-head, Couturier has outperformed Bergeron in points, the +/- statistic, and in faceoff percentage.
Reliable, Quality Shifts
Some of the advanced metrics that are taken into consideration for a Frank J. Selke Award winner is the +/- statistic, shift quality, points, and defensive point shares. As a forward, Sean Couturier has represented the Philadelphia Flyers extremely well in these aspects. Couturier has played in every Flyers game, maintains an elite level of defensive point shares as a forward, has a high shift quality score, and is the best faceoff man in Philadelphia. At no point, has the Flyers dipped under 50% in faceoff wins. Winning possession of the puck at the draw is defense by way of offense.
Strong Defensive Evaluation
In dissecting the players that the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association favored for the Frank J. Selke award, Sean Couturier and Patrice Bergeron are “1 A” and “1 B.” Defensive evaluation is the deciding factor for the Selke Award. At the core, this award goes to the forward who excels defensively. In all aspects of how a forward can produce efficiency on defense, Couturier has the advantage over Bergeron. Both of those players exceed Ryan O’Reilly in just about every essential metric for the Selke Award.
Better Than Cirelli Too
This season, Sean Couturier has been superior to Ryan O’Reilly in just about every measurable statistic for the Frank J. Selke Award. When the Philadelphia Flyers have played the Boston Bruins, Couturier has had more points and a better +/- than Patrice Bergeron. Another player worth a look for the Selke Award is Anthony Cirelli. Quite frankly, I believe the battle still comes down to Couturier and Bergeron after the consideration of Cirelli. “Couts” has also been superior to Cirelli in just about every metric judged for the Selke Award.
On Par or Better Than 2017-2018
Sean Couturier played thirteen more games in the 2017-2018 NHL season because that season was able to finish without any pandemic. He tallied 76 points than in 82 games, while currently having 59 points in 69 games. In 2017-2018, Couturier had a +/- of 34, but currently has a +/- of 21. In 2019-2020, he has a higher faceoff win percentage, eight fewer takeaways, and fewer giveaways. If 2019-2020 featured all 82 games, as “Couts” is on course to play, I believe his points would be just shy of 2017-2018’s result, but he could exceed or match the +/- statistic, faceoff win percentage, and takeaways.
What matters about the specific winner for this award is who the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association votes for. In my mind, there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that Sean Couturier is ranked at the top of that list. Patrice Bergeron may try to throw his elbows for the Frank J. Selke trophy, but Couturier and the Philadelphia Flyers just have the Boston Bruins’ number. Reflecting on “Couts” best opportunity to win the Selke Award, 2019-2020 seems just as good an opportunity as ever. This time, the Selke Trophy is coming home to the Flyers.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre