Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk has won the Selke Trophy for three of the past four years, the exception being last season, when Vancouver's Ryan Kesler established himself as an elite two-way player in the league.
The Selke Trophy is awarded each season to an NHL forward who demonstrates strong defensive capabilities.
I mean no disrespect to Kesler, but if not for the fact that Datsyuk was limited to 56 games last year, Kesler probably would have been in a much closer race for the hardware at the end of the season.
Datsyuk has just as much offensive upside as Ryan Kesler. In his 56 games, Datsyuk still managed to score 59 points, while Kesler scored 73 over a full season.
I could see Datsyuk outscoring Kesler in the upcoming season, although I personally think Datsyuk's days of scoring 90-plus points are probably over.
Then again, Kesler never had those days, so this side of the argument will not ultimately favor him.
The only argument that could be made on behalf of Kesler would be on the defensive side of the puck, where Kesler is willing to block shots and dish out huge hits. Datsyuk obviously does not play that same style and therefore won't deliver the same defensive output as Kesler.
Datsyuk is really the premier defensive forward in the league because of his ability to take away the puck, control it, and skate it out of his own zone. We really do not know how special and wide his skill set is and how that can affect the fortunes of the Detroit Red Wings as a defensive team.
Datsyuk's defensive play is the catalyst for the puck-possession game the Red Wings play, and he is the one whose success ultimately leads his team in the playoffs.
He always seems to be mentioned among the league's elite, even though he may not be as good an offensive player as many of his younger counterparts.
All things considered, fans must understand it is not too much of a stretch to see him as the league's best.
A player who scores almost 100 points and wins a Selke Trophy, as Datsyuk has done, should be considered a potential Hall of Famer in the future due to versatility and value.