2009 NHL Awards – Lady Byng

lady byng trophy-gentlemanly conductThe Lady Byng Trophy is given each year to the NHL player “who has exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

Simply put, usually it goes to the player who has the combination of high point totals and low penalty minute totals.  Pavel Datsyuk has won the award three years in a row, and is one of the finalists for the award again this year.

Joining Datsyuk on the list of finalists are: New Jersey LW, Zach Parise and Tampa Bay RW, Martin St. Louis.

Obviously, all three candidates are stellar options… but let’s briefly take a look at each player (as we have done with the other awards).

zach parise1. (LW) Zach Parise – New Jersey Devils
The 24 year old Parise finished the season with 5 goals, 94 points, and just 24 penalty minutes. 

He finished third among NHL players in goals (one behind Jeff Carter and 11 behind Alexander Ovechkin), and fifth among NHL players in points (behind Evgeni Malkin, Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Datsyuk).

The thing that really makes Parise stand out in my opinion for this award is the amount of effort with which he plays.  Every shift, Parise seems to do whatever it takes to help his team get the win.  He goes into the high traffic areas along the boards and in front of the net and very rarely gets penalized for being over-aggressive.  Few players are as feisty as he, and even fewer are penalized as little as he. 

This combination of grit and toughness with a mind for the rule book and what’s legal/fair among players (plus his large goal total) makes him my favorite for this year’s Lady Byng.

pavel datsyuk2. (C) Pavel Datsyuk – Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk has won this award for a few years now, and if not for Parise giving him a run for his money this season, would likely win it again.  While Datsyuk finished with 32 goals, 97 points, and 22 penalty minutes, I personally think that (points and penalty minutes being fairly equal with Parise) the difference maker will be the goal totals.

I simply cannot (and I dearly hope the voters do not) discount the fact that Parise had close to 30% more goals than Datsyuk (a substantial difference).  While Datsyuk fans will suggest that his defensive play should put him atop Parise in votes, I say that’s what the Selke Trophy (award for best defensive forward) is for. 

While I do understand that defensive play is part of the “high standard of playing ability” that the Lady Byng known for, I personally think it’s more difficult to be a 45 goal scorer and be responsible in your own defensive end, then it is to be a 32 goals scorer and excelling in your own defensive end.

The voting will likely be close, but I think this year will see the end of Datysuk’s Lady Byng reign…

martin st.louis3. (RW) Martin St. Louis – Tampa Bay Lightning
St. Louis has been a finalist for this award for a number of years, but has never won the award.  Sadly for Marty, this is not likely to be his year either. 

With “just” 30 goals, 80 points, and 14 penalty minutes, St. Louis was by far the least superior of the three finalists in point production (largely due to the fact that he was on the weakest team).

He does have the lowest penalty total, and 14 penalty minutes through 82 games (he played every game) is an absolutely amazing accomplishment… so if voters look for the guy with decent production and the lowest “pim” totals, St. Louis could upset and win this award.

I don’t really think that will happen, but hey… who knows?  In 2003-04 St. Louis had 38 goals, 94 points, and 24 penalty minutes, but team mate Brad Richards (who had 26 goals, 76 points, and 12 penalty minutes) walked away with the award.  So indeed, anything can happen as far as Lady Byng is concerned.

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