As an organization, the Hurricanes have become renowned for their defense-first philosophy and dedication to protecting the net rather than trying to blow the opponents away with a relentlessly attacking style that has been deployed commonly across the NHL. This was epitomized yesterday with the release of the 2021-22 Selke trophy ballots. For those that do not know, the Selke award is given to the player voted to be the league’s best defensive forward by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Four different Hurricanes appeared on this ballot. Jordan Staal, Sebastian Aho, Jesper Fast, and Vincent Trocheck all found themselves receiving votes for the award. Carolina was the only team to have three forwards in the top 20 (Staal, Aho, Fast) and this is the 13th year Staal has received a vote for the Selke, marking a new league record. Since I am seemingly full of the useless fun facts today.
This really does underline just how effective the Carolina Hurricanes are defensively. We can talk about the lack of a great goal scorer and how that neglected need bit them in this playoff run, and that is true. But this only furthers my belief that the Hurricanes are one of the most complete teams in the league. Once they find that missing goal scorer to complete the puzzle, there are not many teams that can keep up.
This is business as usual for Jordan Staal. 13 seasons with at least one vote for the Selke is very impressive, not to mention that stretches across his time with two different organizations. Only two times in his career has his name not appeared on a single Selke ballot. That is ridiculous. He won’t win a Selke because his offense isn’t there, but he’s one of the best defensive centermen in the league.
For Aho, this is a nice achievement but it doesn’t dispel the sense that this was an underwhelming season for the Rauma, Finland native. Yes, I know he walked to 81 points, but it never felt this year that Aho was going to break open a game and win the Canes a game they shouldn’t have won. Either Aho was quiet, or the team never needed their star to be a star. Either way, this is a good sign of his defensive development.
Fast has been one of the more underrated additions to this Hurricanes roster. In terms of the way he plays the game at both ends of the ice, the Swedish winger has added a lot since he came to Carolina in free agency from the New York Rangers. He was very good for the team this season and with 1 year left at $2 million, he’s likely going to be one of the better two-way forwards on the roster next year.
Vinny Trocheck is the weird one. He’s not known for being a fantastic two-way centerman. He’s more than capable at both ends of the ice, definitely, but he’s more known for his offensive talents than his defensive prowess. It’s weird to see the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native on the Selke lists, but things happen and we will see if this adds to his free-agent value, whether the team can keep him, and whatnot.
At the end of the day, I do believe this highlights just how good a defensive team the Hurricanes are and it shows the defensive commitments from the forwards as well as the defensemen. It’s a total team effort in Raleigh and it highlights the mantra that the team’s defense is only as strong as the weakest defensive player. Dedication to the cause from the coaching staff has helped this team establish a great defensive presence.