John Tavares is right, Auston Matthews should be in the Selke Trophy conversation

Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
19 days ago
Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares has had a front-row ticket to watch Auston Matthews produce this season. While the 64 goals to this point are an incredible accomplishment, Tavares sees more from Matthews than just his offensive abilities. He feels Matthews should be getting a look for the Selke trophy, and in my opinion, he’s spot on.
If you’re not familiar with the Frank J. Selke trophy, it’s handed out to the best defensive forward in the NHL. We’ll have to go back to 1992-93 for when a Maple Leaf took home the hardware, as Doug Gilmour became the first and only Maple Leaf to ever be crowned. Patrice Bergeron in Boston had been running a monopoly for the past decade. The Bruins great capped off his illustrious career, winning for the sixth time in 2022-23. Mitch Marner was a finalist, however, finished third, 1484 votes behind. Matthews received 22 votes, ranking him 14th on the list. That’s going to change this season.
While most of the attention is put on Matthews’ goal-scoring abilities, game in and game out, he’s become extremely reliable in all three zones and is making more of an impact on both sides of the puck. His ability to puck retrieve, lift sticks and not get a hooking or slashing penalty, and use his hockey sense to be in the right position at the right time to break up a play are parts of his game that don’t get near enough credit. Matthews is third among NHL forwards in blocked shots, sacrificing his body on a nightly basis and not shying away from shooting lanes. He also ranks fourth among forwards in takeaways and could easily be leading the category once the season concludes. As Tavares put it recently, Matthews is way more than just a trigger man:
“He should be right there. He should be, to me, he’s right in the mix and should be nominated for both. I think the type of season he’s having, what he can potentially do here from a goal-scoring standpoint. And to be able to do that and just to be as well-rounded as he is, it’s just even more impressive. He’s not just a trigger guy or always just put in offensive situations. He plays in all areas of the game. He carries play, wins so many puck battles. Obviously, his takeaways are exceptional. I don’t think he always gets enough credit for just how smart he is and just positions he puts himself in, especially how hard teams defend him and how he always consistently finds openings, open space. And just the timing and all those sorts of things. So he’s just as well rounded as the players you’re gonna find in our game today. So it’d be great to see him get the recognition on both those fronts.”
His head coach has noticed it too. Matthews has taken 124 defensive zone faceoffs through 75 games this season, meanwhile only took 82 a year ago. Keefe’s trust in his best player has gone way up this season and rightfully so, even though it’s a quirky stat that doesn’t mean much based on how it’s calculated, Matthews is set to post a career-high plus/minus rating, currently ranking third among forwards. Another aspect of his game that continues to develop is his physicality. He’s set a career high this season with 83 hits and continues to look for ways to impact the game besides just lighting the lamp most nights.
Matthews’ 200-foot game is a part of his craft he’s worked on throughout his eight-year career and an area of his game he takes a tremendous amount of pride in. Keefe has sent a very clear message to his star since essentially day one together that he feels Matthews can impact the game at an elite level on both sides of the puck. With Bergeron no longer an option for consideration and with Matthews taking his 200-foot game to another level, look for the Maple Leafs superstar to be one of the finalists announced as the NHL’s best defensive forward this season. Gilmour could finally be getting some company on the Maple Leafs’ mantle.

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