FanPost

Travis Zajac: Selke Contender?

Editor's Note: This was a very good FanPost and warrants further attention on the Front Page. Why? Research was done, comparisons were made, and an argument was presented.  Is it the end-all argument for Selke? I don't think so, but at the least it further proves how well Zajac has been playing on defense. 

The Selke Trophy. The annual award given to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. Even now, fans are already nominating who should be the finalists for the trophy. Websites such as The Bleacher Report are putting up polls with the likely candidates for fans to vote on. The constantly absent nominee? Travis Zajac.

Travis Zajac. The second 'Z' of the formidable ZZPops and, lately, ZZZ lines. A member of the Devils' top PK unit. A member of the Devils' top PP unit. The guy who stepped up after Madden left Jersey and Pandolfo's role became smaller and smaller as Lemaire often chose to healthy scratch him.

While some NHL trophies are awarded based purely on numbers, the Selke isn't one of them. However, looking at the numbers on and off the ice can help decide on the candidates. So let's look at those and decide for ourselves, no? As always, all numbers are from Behind The Net.

To start off, I filtered all NHL forwards by assuming "eligible" forwards would have played at least 60 games so far, and have at least 12.00 TOI/60.

 

DIFF GA/60 = GAOFF/60 - GAON/60

I feel this value is probably more significant than GAON/60, as it nullifies the inevitable "omg he's a Devil no wonder his numbers are amazing LOL" arguments. This number represents how the particular player affects the goals allowed per 60 mins, regardless of whether his team allows 1 or 2 goals per game or 6+. Ranking the players in decreasing numbers:

 

Name

Team

QUALCOMP

GAON/60

GAOFF/60

DIFF GA/60

S. Pahlsson

CBJ

0.047

2.03

3.00

0.97

C. Glencross

CGY

-0.041

1.67

2.38

0.71

J. Staal

PIT

0.040

2.16

2.83

0.67

M. Ryder

BOS

0.017

1.69

2.35

0.66

R. Vrbata

PHX

0.032

1.63

2.29

0.66

D. Penner

EDM

-0.028

2.58

3.21

0.63

T. Zajac

N.J.

0.089

1.65

2.27

0.62

D. Setoguchi

S.J.

-0.010

1.86

2.46

0.60

W. Simmonds

L.A.

0.005

1.83

2.42

0.59

 

While you may look at the numbers and argue that using DIFF GA/60 alone, there would be better candidates, the QUALCOMP says volumes. The quality of Zajac's competition has been about twice as strong as the other names above him.

 

Pure GAON/60 numbers:

 

Name

Team

QUALCOMP

GAON/60

R. Vrbata

PHX

0.032

1.63

T. Zajac

N.J.

0.089

1.65

C. Glencross

CGY

-0.041

1.67

M. Ryder

BOS

0.017

1.69

A. Ovechkin

WSH

0.062

1.74

P. Prucha

PHX

0.049

1.75

P. Hornqvist

NSH

-0.039

1.79

M. Sturm

BOS

0.097

1.80

W. Simmonds

L.A.

0.005

1.83

 

I try to avoid looking solely at GAON/60, because it tends to be heavily biased towards defensively-responsible teams and their coaching style. While New Jersey has dramatically moved away from the defense-first approach, and nothing stresses this out as much as Mr. Lamoriello signing Kovalchuk, it's ridiculous to think I'm going to change what the league and the other fans think about the Devils. The Devils have been stapled as a defense only team, even when they're not, but that's another post.

As you'll see from the above table, most of the teams come from "defensive" teams, which is no surprise (how Ovechkin is on there, I have no idea). Still, Zajac's number and rank are fairly impressive.

 

How does he do against the favored/popular candidates?

From the Bleacher Report's poll, the candidates were: Pavel Datsyuk, Chris Drury (the hell?), Marty Reasoner, Ryan Kesler, Jonathan Toews, Mike Fisher, Ryan Callahan, Alex Burrows, and Scott Nichol.

The finalists for the past three years are: Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, and Mike Richards in 2009. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and John Madden in 2008. Samuel Pahlsson, Rod Brind'Amour, and Jay Pandolfo in 2007.

Name

Team

QUALCOMP

GAON/60

GAOFF/60

DIFF GA/60

T. Zajac

N.J.

0.089

1.65

2.27

0.62

P. Datsyuk

DET

0.028

2.15

2.48

0.33

C. Drury

NYR

0.030

2.28

2.25

-0.03

M. Reasoner

ATL

-0.020

2.72

2.81

0.09

R. Kesler

VAN

0.034

3.13

1.84

-1.29

J. Toews

CHI

0.044

2.36

2.40

0.04

M. Fisher

OTT

0.058

2.86

2.73

-0.13

R. Callahan

NYR

0.070

2.27

2.39

0.12

A. Burrows

VAN

0.004

2.30

2.21

-0.09

S. Nichol

S.J.

-0.085

2.55

2.21

-0.34

M. Richards

PHI

0.112

2.33

2.46

0.13

H. Zetterberg

DET

0.044

2.70

2.35

-0.35

J. Madden

CHI

0.010

2.46

2.21

-0.25

S. Pahlsson

CBJ

0.047

2.03

3.00

0.97

R. Brind’Amour

CAR

-0.031

3.35

2.53

-0.82

J. Pandolfo

N.J.

0.047

2.64

1.90

-0.74

The numbers amaze me. The only "contender" facing tougher competition is Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers, but has decreased DIFF GA/60. The only "contender" with a better DIFF GA/60 is S. Pahlsson, but faces much worse competition than Zajac does.

 

The Result?

Keep in mind this happened in a difficult year for New Jersey. Madden, the longtime Devils' champion as the checking forward, left in the offseason for Chicago. Yes, Lou brought in Rob Niedermayer, who hasn't been bad, but hasn't been a terrifying defensive force either. To add to the Devils' headaches, Paul Martin, the top defenseman on the roster, took a half-a-season break from the league to nurse an injury. While the Devils' defense struggled for a while, Zajac continued to put up strong numbers.

However, I know Zajac's nomination for the trophy is very unlikely. Part of it is the bias the league has towards the Devils', part of it is because Zajac gets overlooked quite a bit because of Zach Parise. While Parise is amazing, I feel a lot of the magic that happens between the two on the ice gets unfairly credited to Parise.

 

Either way, this is why I think Travis Zajac should at least be considered for the 2009-2010 Selke Trophy. How do you feel about this topic? Let me know in the comments

All FanPosts and FanShots are the respective work of the author and not representative of the writers or other users of In Lou We Trust.

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