The NHL All-Star Break is almost upon us, and as such the Professional Hockey Writers Association will soon put out their midseason picks for the NHL’s awards.
As a first-time member this year, it was an interesting exercise to try (as many beat writers before me have—or haven’t) to ignore any existing hometown bias. After all, beat writers see one team an inordinate amount and, if that team is good at all, that’s going to colour which players they think should be recognized.
But there is one award category in which I firmly believe that a Vancouver Canuck should be recognized this year (other than, of course, the Calder Trophy, where Quinn Hughes will undoubtedly be named one of the league’s top rookies).
It’s the Lady Byng Trophy.
And yes, this is where you say that no one cares about the Lady Byng and that it’s likely the dumbest award in sports. I won’t dispute that notion. The trophy that’s supposed to honour the "player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability" is a bit ridiculous.
The PHWA votes on this one for real at the end of the season (some awards are given out by other bodies—the Vezina Trophy for the league’s top goaltender is handed out by the NHL’s general managers, for example), but it almost always goes to a player that was able to put up a bunch of points against a low penalty minute total.
(The trophy might have more meaning if it was voted on by the NHL’s players, but that’s an argument for another time.)
While it’s often derided, the award could actually mean something if Elias Pettersson were to take it home. As the Canucks’ sophomore is still on his entry level contract, he could earn an extra salary bonus to the tune of $150,000 if he were to win the Lady Byng (it wouldn’t count against the salary cap).
The last four winners of the Lady Byng were Anze Kopitar, Johnny Gaudreau, William Karlsson and Aleksander Barkov. All of those players racked up points and all of them registered 16 or less penalty minutes on the season.
Pettersson already has 12 of those in 49 games, so he’s probably not going to win, as members of the PHWA simply look at the league leaders in points and then see who is closest to single-digits in penalty minutes.
But Pettersson is among the most gentlemanly players in the game today. He doesn’t trash talk. He doesn’t overly celebrate. He only hits for self-preservation, and he never pulls anything dirty.
What’s more, the dude literally calls penalties on himself.
And he apologizes for hitting people with the puck.
Please, show me examples of any other player in the league doing either of these things, and maybe I’ll vote accordingly at the end of the season.
I’m not trying to tip my hat where my end-of-the-season vote is concerned, but I’m not too worried about being a homer in this case.
Hughes might win the Calder. Coach Travis Green could get some votes for the Jack Adams. Maybe Jacob Markstrom enters the Vezina conversation if he goes on a heater. But Elias Pettersson should be nominated for the Lady Byng.
And even if you think it’s a worthless award, it’s always fun to have something to root for in between watching Jay Mohr crack jokes at the NHL Awards.
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