It’s awards season, and it’s time for me to talk to you about the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. This trophy (if it doesn’t sound familiar) is awarded to the player who is judged to be “most gentlemanly” while also performing at a high standard. It’s not necessarily a trophy that players are all vying to earn (after all, this is a sport that encourages bare-knuckle fighting), but I think it is a bit underrated. There are a number of players who play hard, are assets to their teams, and stay within the rules. As such, it seems only fair to acknowledge this characteristic of their play.
First, a little background on the award. Marie Evelyn Moreton was a major hockey fan. She was married to Viscount Byng of Vimy. (Bewildered, I decided to look up Vimy. It turns out Vimy Ridge is an area in Northern France, and it was also the sight of a battle during World War I. Viscount Byng was awarded his viscount status for being a war hero, particularly for his actions in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.) Anyways, Lady Byng decided she wanted to honor gentlemanly players. In 1925, she invited Frank Nighbor of the Ottawa Senators to her home, and explained the concept of the award. She showed him a trophy, and asked whether or not he felt this would be accepted by the NHL as an official award. Nighbor reckoned that the NHL would, indeed, accept this trophy as one of the annual awards presented to players. Lady Byng then presented him with the award (which surprised him greatly), and the Lady Byng trophy was born.
This is one of the trickier awards to predict, because a lot of the time player reputation comes into account. I decided to do a bit of research, and find the three players who had the fewest penalty minutes, while also being important parts of their team. I don’t know if these three will actually be the three nominated by the NHL, but I am confident that these are the three most deserving players of a nomination.
Logan Couture, C- GP:48 G: 21 A: 16 P:37 PIM: 4 Avg TOI: 18:15
Couture is only in his third full NHL season, but he’s already made quite a name for himself. In the past two years he has scored over 30 goals, and, had this been a full season, he would have been on pace for a career-best 36. Had this been a full season, he would have been on pace for six PIM, or three minor penalties. Couture has made the All Star team twice (first as a rookie star, then as a full-fledged all-star), which shows he is well-known around the league despite his young age. His numbers are impressive, and he is out there on the ice for nearly a third of each game.
Bryan Little, C-GP: 48 G: 7 A: 25 P: 32 PIM: 4 Avg TOI: 19:41
Bryan Little is a member of the Winnipeg Jets, and he’s not necessarily one of the more well-known names. However, he did amass over 30 points this season, while taking only two minor penalties. He played every game for his team this season, and his TOI average was about a minute and a half more than Couture’s. I don’t think Little is as well known, but I think it’s hard to argue against a nomination for him given his statistics.
Matthew Carle, D-GP: 48 G:5 A:17 P:22 PIM:4 Avg TOI:23:41
Carle is the only defenseman of this group (it’s simply a fact that as a defenseman, one is more likely to “need” to take penalties at certain points during the game). In his first season with the Lightning, Carle put together 22 points while spending close to 24 minutes a night on the ice. He was relied upon by his coaches, and he rewarded them with some solid offensive play, and clean play most nights. Tampa Bay was only at a disadvantage twice because of Carle’s actions.
(I will add that I strongly considered Matt Read of the Philadelphia Flyers for this award-in 42 games he had only 2 PIM and 24 points. However, he is a forward, and his point total was quite a bit less than Couture’s or Little’s, and I think the fact that he plays for the Broadstreet Bullies will work against him, despite the fact his numbers are impressive.)
So, who will win, out of these three candidates I have presented? I think Matthew Carle is the most deserving, but I think Couture gets the award. He’s just more well known than the other two players, and his GP/PIM are the same, while his points are the highest. He is considered a star in this league, and I think that will bias voting in his favor. Or, the old standbys of Pavel Datsyuk, Martin St. Louis, and Louis Eriksson will be nominated, simply because they always seem to be nominated.