Alright, let me start off by saying this: I'm not typically a blogger. However, in this case I figured since there have already been so many Kesler/Selke threads, this might be an effective alternative. I was just pondering the other day about just how realistic the odds are that Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks wins the National Hockey League's Frank J. Selke trophy at the season's conclusion.
Below is a series of tables depicting the stats of Ryan Kesler and Pavel Datsyuk (Kesler's most significant competition for the trophy). These two players should be considered consistent enough to keep these paces all through to the end of the year.
Now, before you jump to conclusions, I am in no way claiming Kesler is seven times the defensive player Datsyuk is. These numbers represent these two players only, and compared to the league average, they are both miles and miles ahead. When looked at on a greater scale (comparing to the rest of the players in the league), these two would both be at the top, and the apparent difference between them would be drastically less. keep that in mind when you look at the above tables. All stats taken from NHL.com.
Anyway, on to to argument!
Games Played has been left out of the final equation, as this is based on averages (what they do per game). While Datsyuk's games missed will likely factor into the debate, that is not a factor that should be added into these numbers.
Hits: Finishing you check does more than make a player realize he shouldn't be watching his pass or help get the crowd into the game. When a player receives a hit, it adds into his mental awareness, thus causing a sleight distraction from the play he is making. A player anticipating a hit may be more prone to give aways, for example. It also can cause the opposition to become frustrated and lead to a bad penalty. It's not the most important defensive ability, but it's a start. Kesler gets almost an extra half a hit per game than Datsyuk, so he is the winner under this category.
Shot blocks: Shot blocking, whether it be on the PK or at even strength is a huge asset to any team. Obviously goals come directly from shots, so it's clear why it's defensively huge. While not all shot blocks stop shots that are absolutely guaranteed to go in anyway, it's always a plus if you can help out your goaltender. need I go on? I was surprised to learn that Datsyuk had just 11 shot blocks through his 37 games. Considering Kesler averages one a game, he wins this category by a considerable margin.
Give Aways: It doesn't take a genius to realize giving away the puck is bad. Posessing the puck means the opposition likely won't score (unless you're Shane O'Brien ). Giving away the puck, especially at the blue line, tends to lead to either break aways or 2-on-1 rushes against your team. Even giving it away in your own zone can lead to miniature instances of those. Kesler's 0.25 give aways/game is less than half of Datsyuk's 0.57/game. By giving up the puck half as much as Pavel, Ryan simply protects his team from more scoring chances.
Take Aways: The opposite of give aways. Once again, the more your team possesses the puck the better. Taking the puck away from the opposition is just that. Just like giving the puck away can lead to breakaways and odd man rushes against you, take aways can lead to them for you. Now I don't completely buy into "a good offense is a good defense (and vise-versa)," it's pretty hard to get scored on when you have the puck 190 feet away from your goal, while putting the puck in their. This is the area Datsyuk wins easily. With 80% more take aways than Kesler, Pavel wins this round hands down.
Give Away/Take Away Ratio: If a player takes away the puck ten times as many times as he gives it up, it can be accepted if the player in question gives up the puck a bit more than most. Datsyuk and Kesler are both very good in this department. You can't complain about Datsyuk taking the puck over twice as much as he gives it up, and you certainly can't complain about Kesler taking it three times as much as giving it. Er, we're talking about hockey, not the bedroom, right? Anyways, all... distracting thoughts aside, Kesler does win in this area. However, both players are absolutely phenomenal.
Faceoffs/Faceoff Percentage/Total Team Faceoffs: Right off the bat here, I want to say that Kesler and Datsyuk are so evenly matched in the dot, that I wouldn't consider Kesler's extra .3% success rate too significant. What is significant, however, is the amount Kesler takes. Now, I'm not saying the Red Wings aren't good down the middle. What I will bring up though is that Vancouver is just a bit deeper. The Canucks are the 1st ranked faceoff team in the league, while Detroit is 4th. Now, with Malhotra being our main defensive center and Henrik our offensive, Kesler falls into the middle. Datsyuk doesn't seem to be utilized as much as Kesler on faceoffs. Both players put up points offensively, but Kesler takes almost 6% more of the team's faceoffs than Pavel. One can only assume that Kesler takes more defensive zone draws, even with Manny Malhotra, a faceoff and defensive juggernaut, on the team. This is why Kesler wins in the circle. he doesn't beat him out by a whole lot, but faceoffs are huge, as our Canucks have learned this season.
Special Teams Minutes: Penalty killing is a large reason why defensive players are so valuable. This season at least, Datsyuk doesn't appear to be much of a PKer. He averages 47 seconds of short-handed time a game. It isn't nothing, but it's significantly less than RK17. Kesler averages 2:23 of PK time a game. Still, not really huge compared to other players in the league, but here's the thing: he also averages 3:42 of power play time. It's just a tad bit more than Datsyuk's 3:21. This means that while Kesler has been effectively matching Pavel's offensive play this season, he's also been superior in contrasting situations.
Again, I don't want to give the impression I consider Kesler a much better player than Datsyuk. In fact, I think anyone who doesn't consider Datsyuk one of the league's elite never had any marbles to begin with. Not every season is the same story though, and this season is just that. Kesler has stepped up in a huge way. He's been disciplined, he's played with heart, he's a great leader, and he's been absolutely lights out at both ends of the rink. Some are even considering him the dark horse for the Hart Trophy, and that's a huge compliment to his play. When you really break it down, it's looking more and more like this is the year Kesler wins his first major NHL award, while the same can be said about the trophy his team has been after all these years in this, their 40th season. Looks an awful lot like the saying, "You can't spell Kesler without Selke," used amongst Canucks fans may soon realize what it suggests.
Thanks for reading, and Go Canucks Go!
GP - Games Played
Hits - Self Explanitory
BkS - Blocks
GvA - Give Aways
TkA - Take Aways
G/TR - Give Away/Take Away Ratio
FO - Total Faceoffs
FO% - Faceoff Percentage
%TmF - Percentage of Team Faceoffs
The "losers" percentage is the base percentage (100%). The winner's is compared to that.