For the second consecutive season (and third time in four years) a member of the Boston Bruins will walk away from Las Vegas with some hardware for the trophy-case. Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins two-way centerman extraordinaire, was awarded the 2012 Selke Trophy for his outstanding contributions at both ends of the ice.
It comes as no surprise, really. Bergeron has long been regarded as one of the premier defensive pivots in the game and after just missing out on finalist status each of the past two seasons, his hard work was finally rewarded with a much-deserved individual honor.
Perhaps the only thing surprising about Bergeron’s victory was his sheer domination of the voting. Bergy appeared in 146 of 148 voters’ ballots (seriously – who were those two schmucks who left him off?) and took 106 of 148 first-place votes. He nearly doubled-up the second-place finisher, David Backes: With 1,312 points to the Blues’ captain’s 698.
The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont quoted Zdeno Chara (up for the Norris Trophy) on Bergeron’s win: “…He deserved it. He is such a great teammate and friend… He plays every role, every situation. You can always count on him. He is just a tremendous hockey player and person.’’
Several of Bergeron’s teammates took to twitter to congratulate Patrice on his victory:
I am so happy that Bergy won the Selke. Great player and an even better guy, it's a well deserved honor for him.
— Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) June 21, 2012
It’s a bit disconcerting to think that just a few years ago many considered his career was in-question. On the wrong end of one of the most awkward, ugliest hits in recent memory – Bergeron suffered a grade-three concussion and lost all but ten games of the 2007-08 season. His road to recovery was long with his fair share of setbacks – but he came out the other side… boy, did he ever.
A plus-player in all three zones, Bergeron generates shots and goals for the B’s – and artfully denies them at the other end of the rink. He’s easily one of the best faceoff-takers in the game (finishing in the top-ten in the NHL each of the past three seasons – and twelfth in ’08-’09) and plays huge special-teams minutes.
It’s telling that on a team as deep at forward as the Bruins and for a coach as renowned for ‘rolling four lines’ as Claude Julien, Bergeron still managed to average more than 18:30 of ice-time a night… usually against the toughest competition.
While plus-minus might not be the most telling statistic – Bergeron’s plus-36 (which led the League) certainly illustrates how outstanding he is on both sides of the puck. Beyond the numbers, he’s a driven workhorse with that ineffable ‘will to win’ and an inverse-Grinch heart.
The other candidates – Backes and Pavel Datsyuk – had outstanding seasons, but Patrice Bergeron’s body of work in 2011-12 was beyond worthy. Now he heads back home with an award in-tow. While this newest accolade is nice, expect Bergeron to keep his eye on the prize as he again attempts to will the Bruins back to the Promised Land in 2012-13.
Chara Denied Second Norris
Zdeno Chara came up short in his bid to win a second Norris Trophy, instead watching Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson take home the hardware for the first time in his young career. The voting was close: Karlsson barely edged-out two-time nominee Shea Weber for the honor with Big Z finishing a not-too-distant third.
Karlsson’s season was certainly praiseworthy: The young, speedy Swede greedily piled-up points like a reality-TV hoarder… but it wasn’t Norris-worthy.
Call me old-fashioned, but a defenseman has to be able to… ya know, defend. While Karlsson made significant strides towards improving his defensive-zone capabilities this past season, he’s not even an average defensive-defenseman yet.
Whatever metric you choose: Corsi, Fenwick, Goals – or just a simple eyeballin’, Karlsson comes up short beneath his team’s blue line. That might be trending up, he may develop into an excellent two-way defender in coming years, but right now he’s below-average.
Yes, his league-leading takeaway total impresses. However, factor in those near league-leading giveaway totals, miniscule shot-blocking numbers, and microscopic sum of body-checks – and the picture becomes a tad clearer.
Consider also the way in which Karlsson was used: The Senators’ stud saw more than 30% more offensive zone-starts at even-strength than defensive-zone starts. Guys like Chara and Weber simply aren’t afforded that luxury. Indeed, his coach let the youngster play through many mistakes and ostensibly used him as a fourth forward. Certainly he’s a dynamic player – but is being an offensive dynamo enough?
In any case, Karlsson’s time-on-ice totals point to another concern. Compared to Chara, he played over a minute more on the powerplay and over two minutes less on the penalty-kill per-game. That essentially gave him twelve percent more attacking-time than Chara (if we weight powerplay time as equal, to even-strength time, which we shouldn’t).
No defenseman this season produced and negated shots at even-strength (utilizing either fenwick or corsi) better than Zdeno Chara. With Chara on the ice the Bruins were a more prolific offense than the Sens with Karlsson and his dynamic play.
Chara isn’t just a good defensive blueliner, too – he’s the shutdown defender you want on the ice eating all the tough minutes. There are probably fifty guys I’d take before picking Karlsson for that role. Perhaps more.
I’m not suggesting Karlsson shouldn’t be lauded for his extraordinary season. He absolutely should. He’s going to be a very tough player to handle for a long time and he’ll make Ottawa that much better. A true Norris-deserving season is certainly within his reach.
Still, he wasn’t the best defenseman in the game this season. Zdeno Chara deserved to win the Norris Trophy in 2012, but style won out over substance.
Bob is a Boston Bruins Correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He lives in the Boston Metro Area with his wife, Amanda and their five-year-old son, Cormac.