Patrice Bergeron is still the gold standard for two-way play in the NHL

The Selke remains one of the most difficult of the NHL awards to understand. Not only is the actual criteria for it still largely indecipherable, but our ability to accurately evaluate defensive play is also easily biased.

A cool takeaway or stick lift is undoubtedly an impressive play, but being so positionally sound that a scoring chance never materializes in the first place is just as effective from a suppression perspective. Because our eyes are trained to fixate on the big, flashy plays, we tend to remember those more vividly when it comes time to form opinions on what we just watched. 

Isolating defensive impacts and assigning individual value to them can be just as tricky though. Those metrics are often volatile and aren't typically as 'sticky' from one year to the next. Especially compared to the offensive side of things, where the primary drivers of success seem far more predictable. The point is that properly grading defensive play with confidence is difficult, and there's a lot that goes into any evaluation.

Depending on your personal preferences, I can see a fair argument for players like Auston Matthews and Anthony Cirelli deserving legitimate consideration this season. Elias Lindholm is a highly intriguing candidate, because he's truly authoring a fantastic season at both ends of the ice. Not only is he quietly scoring at a 42-goal pace, but he's also centring a line that's throttling opponents by a 52-19 margin at 5-on-5. He tends to get overshadowed because his style of play and the way he carries himself is more understated, but look at what he does to poor Mikko Rantanen with the game on the line.

With all due respect to them, however, they're not Patrice Bergeron. And that's a problem, because he's still the living, breathing embodiment of this award. Whether you want to frame it through the lens of 'two-way play' or a '200-foot game', he remains the gold standard at the position in year 18 of his Hall of Fame career.

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This article is about:
NHL Boston Bruins NHL Aleksander Barkov Patrice Bergeron Anthony Cirelli Pierre-Luc Dubois Taylor Hall Erik Haula Tomas Hertl Chris Kreider David Krejci Elias Lindholm Brad Marchand Auston Matthews David Pastrnak Mikko Rantanen Mike Reilly John Tavares
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