By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — When it comes to subjective award voting, opinions are sure to vary. When it comes to subjective award voting for a trophy with a somewhat vague guideline, even more so.
So the fact that Patrice Bergeron didn’t win his record fifth Selke Trophy over the weekend cannot come as a complete surprise. For one, voters tend to like variety in their awards. And secondly, defining the best defensive forward in the sport is a practice that opens itself up to multiple interpretations.
With all of that being said, when the voting numbers were released over the weekend, it showed that 11 voters left Bergeron off their ballots entirely.
That is madness.
Here’s what the voting looked like
2021 Frank J. Selke Trophy Voting
Player-Points-1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th place votes
1. Aleksander Barkov, 780, 62-16-7-3-4
2. Patrice Bergeron, 522, 15-30-24-11-9
3. Mark Stone, 463, 11-26-23-16-8
4. Joel Eriksson Ek, 193, 4-6-12-10-21
5. Ryan O’Reilly, 175, 2-8-12-10-9
Twenty-four other players received votes, and five more players — Phillip Danult, Jordan Staal, Brad Marchand, Macus Foligno, and J.G. Pageau — received at least one first-place vote.
Some quick tallying of the votes makes two factors stand out:
–Barkov, the winner of the award, was not on eight of the 100 ballots cast.
–Bergeron, the man for whom the award should realistically be named, was missing from 11 ballots.
Theoretically, neither of those things should be true. But again, awards are subjective.
Thus far, only The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus has come out to say that he was one of the 11 PHWA members who didn’t vote for Bergeron. He made the case that Mitch Marner was more worthy of a vote because of his work on the penalty kill.
8. Ultimately, Marner's work on the penalty kill was a deciding factor for me. Killing penalties is a huge part of being a defensive forward, and Marner was GREAT at it. If you have a problem with that, that's fine. But I figured I'd at least offer a rationale.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 20, 2021
This may be some faulty logic, considering Bergeron and Brad Marchand might be the best penalty-killing duo in the league. Bergeron was on the ice for seven shorthanded goals last year, scoring three of them and assisting on another. He was on the ice for just 12 power-play goals against, despite nearly two minutes of PK work per game.
Marner was on the ice for 12 power-play goals against, and he was on the ice for just two shorthanded goals for Toronto. Marner did average eight more seconds of PK time per game than Bergeron, though, so he’s got that.
(The Maple Leafs also had the 24th-ranked penalty kill, compared to Boston’s second-ranked penalty kill. A factor for sure!)
Bergeron also won 58.9 percent of shorthanded faceoffs during the season, the second-best mark in the league (among those with at least 100 shorthanded faceoffs) behind only Pierre-Edourd Bellemare.
Here’s how the league described Bergeron’s candidacy for the award:
In 54 games this season, Bergeron posted 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points. His plus-27 rating ranked fourth among all forwards. The 35-year-old was one of just five players in the NHL to take more than 1,100 faceoffs. Bergeron led the NHL with 714 faceoff wins and also led the league with a 62.2 faceoff win percentage.
Bergeron’s play helped lead the way for the Bruins’ defense this season, as the team allowed just 2.39 goals per game, tied for the fourth lowest mark in the league. He also ranked third amongst the team’s forwards in shorthanded time on ice for a penalty kill unit that ranked second in the league with an 86.0 percent success rate.
A dashing, extremely tall sports writer also added this to the conversation:
By possession numbers, Bergeron was elite, with a 62.5 Corsi For percentage at even strength. Bergeron averaged 3:18 of power play time per game and 1:49 of shorthanded time on ice per game, registering a team-high 13 shorthanded shots on goal.
As a team, the Bruins were the fourth-stingiest at allowing goals this season, and Boston outscored opponents 87-45 in all scenarios when Bergeron was on the ice. That includes getting outscored just 12-7 when Bergeron was on the ice in a shorthanded situation.
I, personally, would also add this:
Patrice is a very nice man! Is that a factor? Not really! But he is a nice fellow who makes for a wonderful ambassador for the game of hockey. Solid beard, too. The beard should be worth a vote. He also does a perfect Elmo impression. We could go on forever here, folks.
This also should be noted:
In a poll of nearly 500 NHL players, Bergeron was tied with Sidney Crosby for getting the most votes as “The Most Complete Player In The NHL.”
Barkov finished in third place there, getting 43 fewer votes than Crosby and Bergeron, so it’s not as if he wasn’t worthy of the award here.
So. did Bergeron deserve to win the award running away? Well, no. There are a lot of good hockey players out there. But he probably deserved to finish in every voter’s top five, realistically speaking.
Lazerus, though, at least was open about his vote and explained that in a crowded field, Bergeron came up shy of the top five in his eyes. He has dealt with some mean tweets since revealing his ballot. While some of us may believe he was incorrect in evaluating Bergeron’s two-play this past season, we can understand the subjectivity at play and we can at least respect his decision to try to be as transparent as possible.
I'm starting to not like Boston based on the (presumably small and non-representative) cross section in my mentions lately, but Bergeron's one of my favorite players to watch, especially since Marian Hossa retired. These awards aren't about preconceived notions.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 21, 2021
The other 10 voters haven’t explained their reasoning, so we’re left to assume that they … perhaps they got an important phone call while they were filling out their ballot and simply made an error. Maybe they had one of those aggressive sneezes that just reorganizes your entire day and scrambles your brain for a bit. Maybe one or two had a George King-level vendetta against Bergeron for some reason. The world will never know.
(On a more sincere level, the unique divisional format of this past season did make certain evaluations difficult. Players didn’t play against the entire league and instead faced the same seven teams eight times apiece. People who followed or covered specific teams might not have watched as much of the league as they normally do. That was perhaps one feasible factor at play.)
In any event, it’s the Selke Trophy, which is a fun little way of quantifying Bergeron’s greatness. He’s won four of them, and he’s finished in second place four times now. He’s finished in the top five of voting for 12 straight years now.
He’s quite good and quite celebrated and everyone knows about him.
Bergeron Selke finishes by year, last decade:
— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) June 19, 2021
Bergeron’s a Stanley Cup winner and a surefire Hall of Famer. Boston really only cares about whether or not he wins another Stanley Cup before his number is hung in the rafters at TD Garden.
But still … 11 out of 100 PHWA voters leaving him off their ballot? That’s rough. Bag skates for them all.