Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Coots Is A Legit Selke Candidate This Season

We've known for a couple years now that Sean Couturier is an elite defensive center. He's been making headlines (and getting a lot of love recently) because he's played a stretch of great offensive hockey, but his bread and butter will always be shutting down the other team's best line.

The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded annually to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. In the past 10 seasons, only 5 players have won the award: Rod Brind'Amour (2x), Pavel Datsyuk (3x), Ryan Kesler, Patrice Bergeron (3x including the last two), and Jonathan Toews (1x).

The Selke Award winner (or at least that caliber of player) always seems to be a crucial piece to a Stanley Cup team. Brindy led the Hurricanes to the Cup. Datsyuk did the same with his second Cup in Detroit. Kesler, a bit of an afterthought now, was a key piece of the Canucks team that won the Presidents' Trophy and went to the Stanley Cup Finals. Bergeron was key in the Bruins' Cup run of 2011. Toews, of course, needs no introduction here.

Yesterday, TSN's Scott Cullen published his mid-season NHL awards ballot. His Selke winner was Bergeron, who is without question a deserving candidate. His writeup also mentioned 8 other candidates, two of which were singled out as "runners-up": Carolina's Jordan Staal and Philadelphia's Sean Couturier.

My Twitter friend Charlie O'Connor beautifully broke down Couturier's Selke bid on BroadStreetHockey earlier this week (link here), so I won't rehash everything he wrote. But I want to break down some very (VERY) basic numbers to show why we should cherish Sean Couturier, and, also, additionally, Ron Hextall.

Here are Coots' comparables, in terms of age and salary. 
  • Patrice Bergeron (30 years old) - $6.875m cap hit for 7 more years
  • Jonathan Toews (27) - $10.5m for 8 more years
  • Pavel Datsyuk (37) - $7.5m for 2 more years
  • Ryan Kesler (31) - $5m cap hit this year, then $6.875 for 5 more years
  • Jordan Staal (27) - $6m for 8 more years
  • Anze Kopitar (28) - $6.8m cap hit this year, then a reported $10m for 8 more years
  • Nicklas Backstrom (28) - $6.7m for 5 more years
  • Mikko Koivu (32) - $6.75 for 3 more years
  • Frans Nielsen (31) - $2.75m, expiring after this season
  • Joe Thornton (36) - $6.75 for 2 more years
This season, Coots (23) is on board on his rookie/RFA contract, and his cap hit is a measly $1.75 million. And he's essentially in second place in the Selke race in the whole goddamn league. 

Next year is the first year of Couturier's 6 year, $26 million extension. It will keep him at a cap hit of $4.33 million until he is 29. At that point, he will be at the tail end of his prime, and he'll likely have either an A or a C on his sweater. 

When you look at Coots' comparables, his best/prime years should be his age 26-30 seasons, and his useful years may extend well beyond his prime. This is the first time I've really looked at his future/potential like this, and I have to say I expect HUGE things from Couturier in the next decade. 

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