Overdue, but Patrice Bergeron joins Selke club
|06.21.12 at 2:43 am ET|
Of all the NHL awards, the Selke certainly isn’t the flashiest of them. It doesn’t put a player on the cover of a video game, nor does it skyrocket jersey sales. Yet for real fans ‘ the ones who either played at some point in their lives or have just been around the game for long enough ‘ it’s the easiest to appreciate. Finally, it belongs to Patrice Bergeron, and it couldn’t be more fitting.
If Bruins fans were given a poll of who should win the Selke, Tyler Seguin would probably win (before you complain about that, remember the 7th Player Award fiasco). If the Selke were a popularity contest, Pavel Datsyuk, who in any given season could be considered the best player in the league, would win it for the eight hundredth time in his career. Wednesday’s awarding is long overdue, but it means that the humble and quiet Bergeron is getting the credit he deserves.
For the previous six years, the Selke fraternity hasn’t taken many new members. Datsyuk’s won it three times, Rod Brind’Amour won it twice, and two seasons ago Ryan Kesler was the recipient for the first time in his career. Through all that, it seemed an injustice that Bergeron, who has consistently been his team’s most important forward given Claude Julien‘s defense-first system, wasn’t even nominated.
Anyone who has watched Bergeron over the years saw that his defensive play in addition to his faceoff prowess made him one of the best, if not the best, two-way forwards in the game. The award is said to go to ‘the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” but like many awards, it doesn’t always hold true to its claimed criteria.
Rather than going to the best defensive forward, it can go to the defensive forward with the best offensive numbers. Then once you’ve won it, you stay in the voters’ (it’s chosen by members of the Pro Hockey Writers’ Association) minds for a while. It’s just tough to get their attention.
Bergeron finally began getting that attention last spring during the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run. As the B’s kept winning and the spotlight shined a little brighter on the quiet center (and his finger, of course), the fact that he’d been snubbed in past seasons got a little more play with the North American media. It was no surprise afterwards that when Bergeron put up big numbers this past season (64 points, an NHL-best plus-36 and a league-high 973 faceoffs won), he ended up being the favorite for the Selke.
From a pure offensive standpoint, 64 points won’t get you mentioned among the best playmakers in the league, but Bergeron’s season provided everything that makes him such an important member of the Bruins. He played consistently against other teams’ top scorers and kept them off the score sheet while also killing penalties and helping the Bruins to a league-best plus-67 differential. Not surprisingly, he led all Bruins’ forwards in time on ice per game and shorthanded time on ice per game.
The chatter amongst other voters suggested Bergeron would be the runaway winner Wednesday night, and he was just that. He had over four times as many first-place votes as runner-up David Backes (106-24) and his 1,312 total points for the vote nearly doubled Backes’ 698.
Now, Bergeron is in the club. Like Dastyuk (this season’s third-place finisher), he should receive significant consideration each year. With linemates Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin entering the primes of their careers, Bergeron’s offensive numbers could still improve, making him an easier pick for those who lean towards those with more points. Plus, the re-signing of Chris Kelly means that Seguin will remain a wing long-term, so Bergeron should be able to have one of the most talented scorers in the league as a weapon for the foreseeable future.
Voting for these awards isn’t easy. Jonathan Quick, my top vote for the Hart trophy, didn’t finish in the top three. I didn’t have Norris winner Erik Karlsson in my top five for the award, though I did give him my fourth Hart vote. Yet after years of watching Bergeron and seeing his proficiency in all areas of the ice this season, the Selke was an easy choice. It may have taken a little longer than it should have, but the entire hockey world seems to see it now.