With NHL Awards set for June 24 in Las Vegas, our writers make a case for each nominee — Martin St. Louis, Ryan O’Reilly and Patrick Marleau — winning the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” Which player is most deserving of the hardware?
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Patrick Marleau is the only player in San Jose Sharks history to be nominated for the Lady Byng, and this should be his year to win it.
Playing alongside Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, Marleau never gets the attention he deserves from the hockey world. All Marleau does is produce.
The 34-year-old had the fewest penalty minutes (18) of any player who scored at least 70 points. (Take that, Ryan O’Reilly). Talk about gentlemanly conduct. He played in all 82 games this season, finishing with 33 goals and 37 assists.
A nominee for the second time in his career, the 34-year-old reached the 30-goal plateau for the seventh time. He also finished fifth in the NHL in shots and eighth in power-play goals.
“He does everything for his franchise,” teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic told The Hockey News in January. “He’s been here the longest, he works hard every day, he skates, and he scores goals. If he played on the East Coast, he’d be the most talked-about player.” —Jeff Simmons
Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado Avalanche
Ryan O’Reilly should run away with this year’s trophy.
If it weren’t for a two-minute minor in a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on March 29, he would have gone completely unpenalized. The one infraction? Playing with a broken stick. What a goon!
The 23-year-old centre doesn’t avoid the sin bin by playing a soft style of hockey either. He appeared in 80 regular-season games where he averaged 19:49 of ice time, blocked 43 shots and led the NHL in takeaways — something that should also net him a Frank J. Selke nomination. O’Reilly forechecks and backchecks hard, leads by example and is respected by his peers.
O’Reilly joins Butch Goring (1977-78) as the only players in NHL history to record two penalty minutes or fewer while playing at least 80 games in a season. Case closed. –Mike Johnston
Martin St. Louis, New York Rangers
Guess which writer drew the short straw.
After his request out of Tampa Bay rubbed many the wrong way, crowning Martin St. Louis the most sportsmanlike player of 2013-14 might not sit too well with fans in Florida. So although the 38-year-old native of Laval, Que., has won the award thrice in the last four years (2010, 2011, 2013) and has been nominated for this trophy in eight of the past 10 seasons, he’ll be a long shot in Vegas. (Aren’t we all?)
But what happens in Steve Yzerman’s office should have no bearing here. What matters is that St. Louis — a player his coaches, teammates and opponents all lavish with respect — scored 30 goals for the seventh time in his career. He had five more points (69) than O’Reilly and eight fewer penalty minutes (10) than Marleau, all while logging more ice time (1,696:11) than all but two other NHL forwards.
It was a turbulent year for St. Louis, who channeled his original Team Canada “snub” into a flurry of January goals. He plays hard hurt and, as the early New York Rangers playoff games have underscored, is the kind of disciplined, determined guy that supercharges a team in adversity. Frank Boucher (seven), Wayne Gretzky (five), Red Kelly (four) and Pavel Datsyuk (four) could have some company in the Four Byngs Or More Club. –Luke Fox