Congratulations to Jordan Staal, who was recently named one of three finalists for this year’s Selke (best defensive forward) Trophy. The others: Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler. You all know Datsyuk, who has won the award the past two seasons. And you all may have become more familiar with Kesler this year, thanks to his time spent with the U.S. Olympic squad. For the record, Kesler finished third in the voting last year.
To my surprise, some of the esteemed “blogosphere” is upset with Staal’s inclusion in the top 3, many feeling Boston’s Patrice Bergeron was snubbed. Nonetheless, Staal earned this honor. Am I biased? Of course I am. I get the opportunity to see Staal play 82 games a year. He almost always plays against the opposition’s top line; he’s as reliable as they come in his defensive zone; he works his ass off every time he’s on the ice. On top of all that, he managed to score 21 goals and tie his career-best of 49 points. Staal’s everything you want a third-line center to be, and he just might be the best third-line center in the game. Here’s a couple facts to support #11 in his bid for the Selke:
- He finished third in the entire league in average short-handed ice time per game (3:20). The Pens had the NHL’s ninth-best PK.
- He finished a career-best +19, tops on the Pens.
All that said, I doubt Staal has a chance to win the award this year. Datsyuk is firmly entrenched at the top spot, and he certainly didn’t do anything to this year to damage his chances for a three-peat. In addition to routinely matching up against the opposition’s top line, he led the league in takeaways and boasted a very nice 55.1% face-off percentage. Oh, yeah, and he managed to put up 27-43=70 and a +17 rating. As Pens fans have seen first-hand in the past two finals, Datsyuk is certainly deserving of this honor.
Kesler does it all: score, hit, win face-offs, block shots and kill penalties. He had 25 goals and 70 points this year, but only finished +1. Watching him play in the Olympics, you can just tell he’s a good, hard-nosed player.
I think the award will most likely go to Datsyuk, with Kesler having a good chance. This, of course, won’t take away from Staal’s accomplishments this year. By being named a finalist, he now has that name recognition with the Selke. He’ll be back next year and probably for many more to come.
Johnson Inks Extension
In case you missed it last week, the Pens signed backup goalie Brent Johnson to a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2011-12 season. Another great move by management. A solid backup is vital to a team’s success over the course of the season. Quite frankly, Johnson was better than I thought he’d be this year. He finished 10-6-1 (9-4-1 in games he started) with a .906 save percentage and 2.76 GAA – good numbers for a backup. I know I’ll take them. With Johnson as backup, you’re not scared if Fleury goes down and you’re not worried when he gets a spot start. Hey, I like the guy. Before he made a save this year, he won me (and I’m sure a lot of other fans) over with his Led Zeppelin-inspired mask.