Frank J. Selke Trophy: History, Montreal Canadiens Past Winners

The Montreal Canadiens have a long and storied history of winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy.
Montreal Canadiens legend Bob Gainey
Montreal Canadiens legend Bob Gainey / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Frank J. Selke Trophy winner will be announced on Saturday, May 18th, before the puck drop of Game 5 of the Vancouver Canucks vs. Edmonton Oilers. The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

Frank J. Selke was a former executive with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. He was a builder with the NHL for 60 years, and went into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1960. He became General Manager of the Canadiens in 1946, winning six Stanley Cups.

The Canadiens hold a big piece of the Frank J. Selke Trophy, but they haven't had a player earn the honor since 1991-92. A Montreal Canadien has won the award seven times, but it's only been in the possession of two men.

Will a Montreal Canadien hold the trophy again soon? Pundits view Nick Suzuki as a version of Patrice Bergeron, but will he ever get to a defensive level where he beats out other centers? Jordan Staal and Aleksander Barkov will be aging out as Suzuki enters his prime, but he'll always compete with the other nominee this season, Auston Matthews.

Bob Gainey (1978,1979,1980,1981)

Dave Keon, Bob Gainey
Bob Gainey vs. Hartford Whalers / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Bob Gainey was the original Selke Trophy King, winning the award in its first four years. Gainey had a big head start in his quest to be the all-time leader in wins, and it was a record that stood until 2022 when Patrice Bergeron won for the fifth time. Bergeron would win it again in 2023, his sixth Selke Trophy in his career's final season.

Three other players challenged Gainey's record, with Pavel Datsyuk, Jere Lehtinen, and another player we'll mention later winning the honor three times.

Bob Gainey was one of the most integral players on the Canadiens teams of the late 1970s. Gainey was one of their top offensive players, but the most valuable component was his defense.

Gainey scored just 15 of 359 goals from the Canadiens the first season he won the award, but the number of goals he kept off the board for the opponents was more special to Gainey. The Canadiens went on to win their third of four Stanley Cups.

The Canadiens continued their dominance for the next few years, and Gainey was the league's best defensive forward. It may have been a result of trying to give someone new the award that Gainey didn't win anymore after four straight, but his defensive play did drop off after his fourth Selke Trophy.

Some would argue that Gainey's best years were before the trophy came into existence, so it isn't crazy to think that Gainey may have been sitting here with seven awards if it had been given out from 1974 to 1977.

Guy Carbonneau (1988, 1989, 1992)

Guy Carbonneau
Guy Carbonneau coaching / Richard T. Gagnon/3ICE/GettyImages

It took seven years before another Montreal Canadien held the Frank J. Selke Trophy. It was fitting that the man who won the award was Guy Carbonneau, a player who modeled his game after former teammate Gainey. Carbonneau had his lowest offensive output in 1987-88, but the drop off of his offensive game did wonders for his defense. He was Montreal's new shutdown forward, the same role that Gainey played, and followed in his footsteps by winning a Stanley Cup that season.

After winning the Stanley Cup, Carbonneau was now the full-time third line center on Montreal. He led the Canadiens to second overall in the league, and increased his point total by 16 points. However, he was still good enough defensively to win his second consecutive Selke Trophy.

After a two-year break, Carbonneau was ready to bring home one more Selke Trophy. He was now the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, and was about to win his second Stanley Cup in the following season. His Canadiens career was winding down, as he was traded before the 1994-95 season. Carbonneau was never able to win one more Selke Trophy to tie his hero.