No regular season award evokes more ridicule among NHL fans than the Lady Byng Trophy.
This is hockey after all, a sport where a goalie can enter a game in relief and allow more goals against than the goaltender he relieved in the first place yet still be named one of the three stars of the game, simply because he racked up 29 penalty minutes by fighting the other team's goaltender.
Such a sport has no place for a trophy with a girly name.
Thus, Ray Emery is showered with praise while Lady Byng is mocked with laughter.
Some of this derision is warranted. Take a second to read the description of the award, according to NHL.com:
The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season; each individual voter ranks his top five candidates on a 10-7-5-3-1 points system. Three finalists are named and the trophy is awarded at the NHL Awards ceremony after the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That description certainly does not enhance the award's reputation. However, most of the stigma surrounding the Lady Byng Trophy comes from the name itself. According to NHL.com, the trophy is named after "Lady Byng, wife of Canada's Governor-General at the time."
Due to the unfortunate moniker and meek description, the award's negative reputation is unfair and undeserved. The annual recipient of this honor should be shown respect and admiration for maintaining "sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct" in a sport not widely known for either. A deserving player should be rewarded for maintaining discipline and good behavior for an entire season—not an easy feat in the game of hockey.
During his first seven NHL seasons, he was considered a "chippy" player. Mikita's habit of winding up in the penalty box frustrated his coaches, who preferred to see his immense talent remain on the ice. He recorded more than 100 penalty minutes four times and seemed far from ever winning the Lady Byng Trophy. But after his daughter questioned his style of play, Mikita vowed to clean up his act and did just that by registering only six minor penalties in 1966-67. Consequently, he became the first player in NHL history to win the Art Ross, Hart and Lady Byng trophies in the same season.
Mikita also won the award the following season when he registered only seven minor penalties. He is one of 52 players to win the trophy since it was first awarded after the 1924-25 season and one of 19 players to win the trophy multiple times, according to Hockey-Reference.com. That's an impressive feat for a player who still finished his career with 1,270 penalty minutes, per Hockey-Reference.com.
Will Marcus Johansson win the Lady Byng Trophy this season?
In fact, Johansson could actually be considered one of the favorites for the award, as he has compiled only two penalty minutes to date. Not only that, he did not incur his first (and so far only) minor penalty of the season until the 48th game of the regular season.
Now, determining the favorites for the Lady Byng is a challenge. The guidelines set forth by the NHL describe three finalists. But last year, 65 players received votes according to Greg Wyshynski at Yahoo! Sports, who separated the first 15 players to receive votes from the rest of the pack.
I will do the same in the following table, listing the 15 players most likely to lead the NHL in votes for the Lady Byng this season. Each player is listed in ascending order according to penalty minutes, with other pertinent statistics. Previous winners of this trophy are denoted accordingly, along with the last season they received the honor:
|Martin St. Louis||38||TBL||RW||50||25||25||50||+16||6||3||2012-2013|
As you can see, there is a glut of worthy candidates.
So how do we determine the finalists? And where does Marcus Johansson stand among them?
First of all, age is not much of a deterrent. Twenty-four winners were 25 years of age or younger. Conversely, nine winners were 35 years or older.
A player's position, however, is a deterrent. Only three defenders have won the Lady Byng, one of them being Brian Campbell. Interestingly enough, another of those defensemen (Red Kelly) won the award three times. Kelly also won the Lady Byng a fourth time while playing center.
Also, past winners do not necessarily have an advantage. As I alluded to earlier, 33 of the 52 winners of the Lady Byng won the award only one time.
Finally, remember the NHL guidelines, which stated that the award winner must have "exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." To that point, 30 of the 47 forwards to win the award totaled at least 50 points, and all but one of the five defensemen totaled at least 30 points.
Keeping all those factors in mind, here are my predictions for the three Lady Byng finalists:
- Ryan O'Reilly: He currently has zero penalty minutes. That's a goose egg. On top of that, he's nearly a 20-goal scorer and a 40-point producer, all while being a plus player. He is my projection to win the award.
- Martin St. Louis: Yes, he won last year. And three out of the last four years. But he is a point-per-game producer with a plus rating and only six penalty minutes. Face it: Marty's going back to Vegas.
- Marian Hossa: He's never won the Lady Byng despite 20 or fewer PIMs in three of the last four seasons, a feat he can duplicate this season. Hossa has already reached 20 goals and 40 points and boasts the highest plus/minus rating of anyone listed in the table.
With regards to Marcus Johansson, I do think he will receive enough votes to crack the top 15. Johansson's low goal total will prevent him from being named a finalist this season, but his lack of penalty minutes cannot be ignored. His assists and power-play goals are also worth noting.
If Johansson is able to win the Lady Byng this season, he would become the first player to do so in the history of the Washington Capitals. Johansson's attempt to make franchise history by winning this mistreated medal may bring a silver lining to the black cloud that is settling over the Capitals' season.
Note: All statistics updated through Jan. 21 courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.