The NHL recently released this article about Anze Kopitar gaining Selke Trophy attention, after yesterday Pierre Lebrun of ESPN selected him as his front-runner for the award. While Kopitar is indeed a top defensive forward, looking at the numbers around the league, he is not the Selke front-runner.
Steals and Puck Possession
Anze’s ability to steal the puck has been far from best in the league. Kopitar is currently tied for 33rd in the league among forwards in take-aways with 47. Even perennial Selke winner Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, who’s played in 36 less games than Kopitar, has more take-aways with 55. If we’re going off take-away numbers this year the league should be considering players like Marian Hossa and Ryan O’Rielly for the Selke, who lead the league in take-aways and have committed very few give-aways as well. Kopitar has given the puck away 38 times this year. Compare that to his take-away numbers this season, and his puck possession looks good; not outstanding.
Face Off Percentage
Akin to his puck possession numbers, Kopitar has not been top in the league in FO% either. He currently sits at a 53.3 win percentage. Many other centers, including other Selke contenders, have been better in this regard. Kopitar’s own teammates Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll have had better face-off numbers than him as well.
Kopitar is tied for 53rd in the league in blocked shots by forwards with 44. If we go off this stat then Kopitar is again being out competed by fellow Selke candidates. Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks, and former Selke winner Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks, both rank top ten in the league in shots blocked by forwards, each with 64 blocks respectively.
A bright spot in Kopitar’s defense is his average PK minutes per-game. He ranks extremely high in this category when compared to other Selke candidates. He sits behind only Ryan Kesler, who currently averages just 8 more seconds of PK time per-game than Kopitar does. However, when using these numbers we also need to look at Los Angeles’s success on the PK this year. LA is ranked 12th in the league, sitting behind some struggling teams like New Jersey, Winnipeg, and Detroit. Also ahead of them are some teams that boast fellow Selke candidates, like St. Louis, San Jose, Boston, and Vancouver. Kopitar also has yet to register a short-handed point this season, unlike many of his Selke competitors.
Corsi and Plus-Minus
Many will argue that Kopitar’s high +/- make him a player that scores, and does not get scored on. Yet, this could not be further from the truth. Any hockey fan not named Mike Milbury knows how flawed the +/- stat is. It’s a team stat that is unreliable at rating individual players. Take a look at some of the top skaters in +/- this season and you’ll see a list riddled with players who are far from defensive standouts. Likewise, many will use advanced statistics like Corsi numbers to justify Kopitar’s Selke win. Again, while Kopitar is strong in this regard, Corsi is another flawed system. Corsi is confusing for many, but a good explanation of why the system is flawed can be found here: Flaws of Corsi. Kopitar also ranks lower than other Selke candidates in quality of competition according to Corsi. So I think it’s best to just throw these stats right out.
There is no doubt Kopitar is an elite NHL forward, and definitely a Selke candidate. Is he the current front runner for the trophy? While it’s nice to think about, the simple is answer no.