• Andrew McGuinness

Sean Couturier Wins the 2019-20 Selke Trophy!

Coots, there it is!

Sean Couturier WINS the 2019-20 Selke Trophy for best defensive forward in the National Hockey League! After years of knocking on the doorstep as one of the top shutdown centers in the league, Couturier was finally awarded with the first hardware of his NHL career.

It's been a while since a Flyer has brought home a major award, let alone the Selke. Couturier is the first Flyer to win a major award since Ian Laperriere in the 2010-11 season. Laperriere won the Bill Masterton Trophy for "perseverance and dedication to hockey," largely due to him returning for the 2010 Stanley Cup Final after blocking a shot with his face in Round 1, then retiring after the playoffs (incredibly, that wasn't the first time Laperriere had done just that). As for the Selke specifically, Couturier became the third Flyer to win the award, joining Bobby Clarke (1982-83) and Dave Poulin (1986-87).

Couturier had some stiff competition to beat out for the award. The other finalists were Boston's Patrice Bergeron and St. Louis' Ryan O'Reilly. Bergeron has long had a reputation as the best defensive forward in hockey; he's tied with Montreal's Bob Gainey for most Selke wins ever with four, most recently taking home the hardware in 2016-17. O'Reilly was last year's winner, taking the Selke in addition to the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP, not to mention the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, and of course, the Stanley Cup as a member of the 2019 champion Blues.

Ever since he broke into the NHL, Couturier has been all-around the Selke. He has received votes for the award in eight of his nine professional seasons (2012-13 was the lone exception). He has finished top ten in voting on seven of those six seasons (including each of the last five). Before this year, his closest finish was being the runner-up to Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar in 2017-18. Kopitar was also a finalist for the league MVP award, the Hart Trophy, that season, with Couturier and Bergeron being the other nominees.

Even though the Selke by name only takes into account defensive play, it has transformed into the best two-way forward award over recent years, at least in the eyes of the voters. So while Couturier's shutdown skills and defensive prowess always garnered moderate consideration for the honor, it wasn't until Couturier exploded offensively in the 2017-18 season that he became a serious Selke contender. Couturier scored 59 points in 69 games this year, putting him on pace for his third 70-plus point season.

That impressive pace actually ranks Couturier dead last among the three finalists this season, so it truly was Couturier's defense that put him over the top. Coots finished 15th in 5-on-5 Corsi For (56.25%) and was also outstanding in Expected Goals For (55.54%) and actual Goals For% (61.8%). Couturier was also a beast on the penalty kill, finishing with the eighth best short-handed Corsi in the NHL, right behind teammates Derek Grant and Kevin Hayes (min. 100 PK minutes). No Flyers forward played more than Couturier overall (19:50 per game) or on the PK (2:02 per game). He achieved most of this playing against other teams' top-lines, shutting down Hart and Art Ross contenders with incredible consistency and starting the majority of his shifts (51.34%) in the defensive zone.

(Update) Couturier won this year's award pretty decisively, appearing on 163 of 170 ballots and receiving an impressive 117 first-place votes. Here's the full voting chart.

As for the other Flyers nominated for major awards, Oskar Lindblom and Alain Vigneault both finished as runners-up for the Bill Masterton and Jack Adams Awards, respectively. Cherry Hill native and Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan won the aforementioned Masterton. Ryan missed over three months this season in rehab for alcohol and substance abuse. In his first home game back, Ryan scored his first hat-trick since December 2014 against Vancouver. The Jack Adams, given to the coach most responsible for their team's success, when to Boston's Bruce Cassidy. One year after losing Game 7 of the Finals, Cassidy led the Bruins to their first President's Trophy since 2013-14, finishing the year with 100 points, six ahead of the Blues team that beat them for last year's Cup.