I am one of those who thinks the Lady Byng is a good award that deserves respect. At least in theory. Players should be praised for "exhibiting the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." The problem, of course: How on earth do you judge that? More precisely, how do the PHWA members judge that? (The three NHL finalists are Martin St. Louis, Niklas Lidstrom and Loui Eriksson -- the only top 100 scorer to have fewer PIM than Michael Grabner.)
Foul things happen out there on the ice, away from the NBC mics, the cheerleaders and the pressbox reporters' eyes. The Byng is one of those awards that should be voted on by the players themselves. (Side topic: How much better would players regard this award if it didn't have the gender-bending "Lady" in the title?)
Nonetheless, we'll give it a go here as to who the Islanders' Byng winner should be. Often this award defaults to good players who take few penalties, so there's that. But I bet we can find some other criteria...
First, I present here the votes of our LHH enforcers and snipers. Then we'll open it up to more candidates and your own votes.
We'll start the roundtable with mikb, who introduced the Byng to our voting:
Lady Byng - I'm throwing this in there because the media is so determined to make us out to be unrepentant goons and troglodytes of the lowest order. Well, nuts to them. The Islanders' Lady Byng winner is the one and only Michael Grabner - all of five measly minor penalties in 76 games (15:05 ATOI); only Loui Ericsson was lower among the league's top 100 scorers. Seven different goalies had 10 or more PIM this year - including both Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson. (Sad Mario is Sad.)
So Grabner has out-Frans'd Frans in that department. Next we have WebBard:
Lady Byng - That thuggish goon Frans Nielsen should get it. He got some ridiculous misconducts called against him, but players seemed especially willing to rough up the Dane. Despite that, he was still a class act all the way.
Late Update: Here is Keith Quinn's nomination:
Amac: Andrew MacDonald. Since Lidstrom is on the official NHL ballot this year, I figured I would also give credit to a D man. Amac averaged 23:24 time on ice in 60 games and collected totals of 27pts (.45gm) and 37pims. If you subtract for nonsense, this total drops to 20 minutes (Less matching cross-checking penalties and fighting majors in Pittsburgh when he was jumped by Joe Vitale in the undercard and final bout of the evening and his obligatory 10 minute Islander-conduct penalty in Ottawa the week before when JT was getting roughed up by Milan Michalek).
For a guy who was on the ice for that much time and in that many situations as a second year player with 46gp prior to this season, that is quite an achievement. I have a bit of my own take on this award which probably doesn't jive for what is intended by the NHL, but if you are a guy who generally has few penalty minutes, is never a "dirty" player, but has some penalties for defending teammates, that to me speaks of a gentleman (or a Lady???) and should be looked upon favorably. Amac was a good scout this year.
As an aside, did you know that since joining the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL, Amac has never been a minus player? #fact Belee dat.
The Crumbling Case for Frans
Now Frans Nielsen -- who is my annual nominee for Selke, Lady Byng, Hart, Masterton, Norris, Vezina, Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Jennings, Nobel, Pulitzer, and All-Around Best Herning Native -- clearly lost his Byng juice this year. I don't know what happened, but Keith got the inside story earlier this year. First there was him having the nerve to place undue distress on Daniel Briere (who even Sabres and Flyers fans will admit is one of the dirtiest stick players in the league).
Then there was the time where Nielsen had the nerve to ask* Stephen Auger the question every NHL fan would like to ask: "How in the hell can you find your bank, much less in good conscience cash a paycheck?"
*Note: Technically Frans did not say that. To my knowledge. I think.
So there you have it: Nielsen not only accumulated a career high 38 PIM this year -- more than DOUBLING his career PIM total of 24) -- he also had those two 10-minute misconducts. He had nine minor penalties, which is less than everyone else on the team who saw more than 53 games...except for his new partner in Bynship, the noble Austrian Michael Grabner.
P.A. Parenteau Disqualified for Potty Mouth
Parenteau had 23 minors for his 46 total PIM, so he isn't really a candidate anyway. But all hope was lost for PAP winning this honor for "gentlemanly" behavior when he uttered this audible lament after a poor call at the end of the Jan. 26 Hurricanes-Islanders game. Tsk tsk, Pierre-Alexandre, think of the children! As thoroughly demonstrated by this year's playoffs, which have been clean and altruistic in intent, this is a family game. Thus, NHL ambassadors are not to speak that way unless it's in a private email from Colin Campbell.
And even then, surely Colin would never use such foul language when complaining about NHL referees... Wait. Oops.
James Wisniewski Disqualified for Potty Gesture
Like many NHLers, NHL fans, and NHL pundits whose names do not loosely rhyme with "Footsie," James Wisniewski was not impressed by the antics of one Sean Avery. Problem is, the Wiz demonstrated his metaphorical interpretation of Avery's yapping in an all too graphic way. While the, ahem, specific intent of the gesture is open to interpretation, we're pretty sure this moment of high school pantomime hereby dismisses Wisniewski from ever being a Byng candidate.
Josh Bailey: Gentlemanly, but Still Lacking 'Standard'
The fact Josh Bailey garnered only 10 minors in 70 games (plus: One fighting major and one game misconduct for a total of 37 PIM) is either a sign that he possesses Frans-like restraint or, if he's on your scapewagon, an unnerving tendency to disappear for lengthy stretches.
If the whole "high standard of playing ability" ever comes to full bloom for the 21-year-old, then Byng consideration could be in his future. But not yet.
Trevor Gillies: Disqualified due to Technicality
Rules are rules, and while its criteria may be subjective, the Lady Byng is no different: Trevor Gillies, with only 39 games played, alas, cannot be considered for the Lady Byng Trophy. Which is a shame, really, because all who now Gillies insist that he always opens the gate for his fellow Islanders and always prefaces his fights with his standard introduction: "Pardon me, good sir, but you have wronged my teammate by checking him from behind, in what we'd call a career-threatening position. I'm sure it was purely an accident and you never, ever, EVER have been known to try such things. That being said -- and believe you me it pains me to do so -- courtesy and decorum require that I must now challenge you to a duel."
Matt Moulson: Compelling Case, Actually
Now here's a pretty case, actually: Matt Moulson played first-line minutes, scored 31 goals in 82 games, logged all of that in the harrowing front-of-the-net "dirty" area (even in today's kinder, gentler NHL, the front of the net is still the area where you'll get blindside Kunitz'd or Orpik'd into the crossbar) ... you'd think Moulson would have his share of frustration and retaliatory penalties, right?
But no: Moulson logged 18:52 per game -- and in fact, thanks to his 82 games played, he led the Islanders in total minutes played -- yet drew a very Byng-like 12 minor penalties all season long. Apparently not even Briere could contrive a reason to claim Moulson is a dirty rotten no-good bullying meany-poo.
Mr. Grabner, I dare say you have competition here.
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Alright people, who's your pick for Islanders Byng winner? Your standards can be as elusive and ambiguous as the Lady herself.