Should Patrik Elias Be In The Discussion For The Selke Trophy?

No guys, Patrik Elias is not on the ice to talk to Claude Giroux about life as a ginger.

Quietly, the New Jersey Devils have been one of the better defensive teams this year. Of course, there's been less talk about the team being a defense first team because of Peter DeBoer's offensive system. However, they've been very good- they rank 9th in the league in goals against (3rd in the eastern conference) and have been one of the best teams at preventing shots- only St. Louis' 26.4 shots/game is better. Unlike most of the top defensive teams, the Devils have done it with poor goaltending (.907 es sv%) or an elite defenseman (unless we consider a good defenseman like Mark Fayne to be "Elite"). The Devils however, have a lot of good defensive forwards. While Zach Parise is the one who gets all the attention, we all know Patrik Elias is very good defensively.

However, a lot of people don't consider Patrik Elias to be one of the best defensive forwards in the league. Harrison Mooney, who's one of the most knowledgeable hockey guys in the blogosphere doesn't think Elias is amongst the best defensive forwards in the NHL (Note: I don't disagree with Harrison's choices- they're good). Of course, Elias has been a big part of the team's success both offensively and defensively- he routinely goes up against the NHL's best scorers, and despite that is tied for 14th in NHL scoring. While there aren't going to be a lot of people willing to credit Elias for the job he's done defensively, I wonder how he compares to players who would be considered worthy of the Selke trophy. Considering he's one of the best two-way players in the league, should he be in the discussion for this award?

While my list may seem arbitrary, the players listed alongside Elias have been considered to be elite two-way forwards. Players like David Backes, Patrice Bergeron and Jordan Staal have been used in similar roles against tough competiton. Pavel Datsyuk might be in consideration because of his reputation. Anze Kopitar- who like Elias, is in the top 30 in NHL scoring and is used by his team to face tough competition. All data is from behindthenet.com

Player

GF/60

GA/60

SA/60

Qualcomp

CorsiRELQoC

oZone Start%

Patrik Elias

2.79

2.85

24.3

0.056

1.445

51.8

David Backes

2.53

1.62

23.8

0.117

1.131

46.1

Patrice Bergeron

3.54

1.82

24.0

0.056

0.530

48.0

Pavel Datsyuk

3.14

1.85

21.0

0.076

1.268

55.1

Jordan Staal

3.02

2.81

24.4

0.070

1.517

48.1

Anze Kopitar

3.05

2.40

24.2

0.078

1.150

50.5

In terms of preventing goals against in this group, Elias is the worst when it comes to that. In fact, a lot of his numbers don't seem great in comparison to most of the players here. However, one thing to note is that he's legitimately facing some of the best players on the opponent's teams- as evidenced by his 1.445 CorsiRELQoC. In comparison, Bergeron faces weaker competiton and is able to completely dominate them. Because of that, Bergeron looks much better than Elias. For a favourable comparison to Elias, Jordan Staal's numbers are somewhat similar- he might have a high goals against/60, but he's also doing it against very good players. Elias isn't getting a lot of defensive zone starts- but he fares quite well against his competition.

However, when you look at Elias' work shorthanded, things look a lot different.

Player

GA/60

CorsiRel/60

SA/60

Points/60

Patrik Elias

3.15

-1.1

35.4

1.79

David Backes

5.50

-8.5

39.4

1.37

Patrice Bergeron

5.15

5.6

41.2

1.40

Pavel Datsyuk

5.74

4.4

39.4

0.00

Jordan Staal

3.97

-1.2

38.1

1.59

Anze Kopitar

4.56

9.8

44.9

1.40

In terms of preventing goals (and shots), Elias is streets ahead of his competitors here. Jordan Staal, his closest competitor in terms of goals against is Jordan Staal at 3.97. Considering the Devils have 35.4 SA/60 when Elias is on the ice, he does a great job of preventing chances against. I've included shorthanded points because it also shows that Elias has been pretty deadly in terms of creating offense shorthanded.

Why He Won't Win or Receive Consideration

I'll give two reasons- the first being hype. When you look at his numbers, they're great. Like I said earlier, when the people voting think of the Devils, they will likely think about Zach Parise, who is also known as a good defensive forward but is used in an offensive role. Think about Jonathan Toews' nomination last year. He went up against tough competition- although they were top defensive players like Shea Weber and Nicklas Lidstrom. The top offensive players on the opposition were shut down by the likes of Dave Bolland- who instead had to deal with guys like the Sedins and Henrik Zetterberg.

With the Devils, Parise is the guy facing tough defenders like Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonaugh. Like I mentioned before, tough competition, but tough defenders. Compare that to who Elias is facing- James Neal, Evgeni Malkin and John Tavares are three of Elias' most common opponents. It's not that Parise is a bad defensive forward- it's just that he's not being used in a defensive role.

The second reason will be the whole part about boxcar stats. Elias' doesn't have a spectacular +/-: He's -9. While it's becoming more apparent that +/- is becoming more and more irrelevant, no player in the last decade has won the Selke trophy with a negative +/- rating. I doubt the voters would give him credit despite that -9 rating.

Conclusions

From what I've looked at, I think Elias does have a case to be considered in the Selke Trophy voting. In terms of two-way ability, he's capable of playing excellent defense and is a capable contributor offensively. Unfortunately, because he doesn't have the hype train behind him like Bergeron has, he's probably not going to get the credit he deserves. From what I've said, do you think he should be in consideration for the Selke trophy? Or do you think another Devil should be in the conversation with/instead of Elias? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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