Why Vincent Lecavalier would win comeback player of the year award, if it existed

Thumbnail image for lecavaliergoal.jpgMy knowledge of trophies in other sports isn’t cumulative, but I’d still be willing to wager that the Lady Byng is the least respected award in sports that hasn’t been made up by a snarky blog or something of that nature.

Obviously, having a trophy with the word “lady” on it doesn’t fly in the macho world of hockey, even if Byng was an important figure in hockey history. Then there’s the message of the trophy itself: it’s awarded to the most “gentlemanly” player in the sport. That’s a great concept in that it highlights a white sheep in a gang of black ones, but hockey players are expected to be crazy and courageous, not to hold the door for people.

Vincent Lecavalier’s expected bounce back year got The Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek thinking about revamping the Lady Byng … and how Lecavalier might be the unofficial comeback player of the 2010-11 season.

With all the hardware the NHL dispenses come awards time, why wouldn’t they name a comeback player of the year? The Masterton comes closest, but here’s a vote for reworking the definition of the Lady Byng trophy so that it goes to the player who rebounds after a sub-par year. The Byng doesn’t get much respect as it is currently interested defined – gentlemanly conduct just doesn’t cut it among hockey players generally – and it would create an interesting new category, which this year would feature a ton of potential candidates this year: Ales Hemsky, Johan Franzen, David Booth, Marc Savard, Dave Bolland, Milan Lucic, Paul Martin to name just a few.

Then there is Lecavalier, who actually scored 70 points last season, but was a minus-16, a fairly accurate reflection of his even-strength struggles. It is in the goal-scoring department where the decline has been especially noticeable: 52 to 40 to 29 to 24 over the past four seasons.

For Lecavalier, who was part of the 2004 Stanley Cup championship team, there is more to get excited about this year than there has been in the recent past.

lecavalierwithnewteammates.jpgThe Masterton does, indeed, seem like the closest answer to the comeback player of the year although it seems to reward coming back from much more serious adversity (a family member’s death, a horrific injury) than normal.

There are two reasons why Lecavalier might have a good chance at a big improvement this season: 1) better teammates and 2) his shooting percentage was 8.1 percent, four percent lower than his career average. That might not sound like much, but if he converted on just a bit more than 10 percent of his shots last year (295 overall), he would have produced a 30 goal season instead of a 24-goal output.

So, if you’re struggling to find a good center later in a fantasy hockey draft, consider Lecavalier a strong “steal” candidate. He might not win a Lady Byng/Comeback Player of the Year Trophy, but he might help you win whatever award you hand out among your colleagues. And isn’t your personal glory what really matters?

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    Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

    Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) deflects a puck over the net during the first period of Game 3 against the Washington Capitals in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

    The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

    (Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

    Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

    A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

    First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

    Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

    Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

    In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

    This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

    Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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    It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

    (You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

    There are a few things we do know already.

    For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

    Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

    In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

    There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

    Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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    Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

    ***

    As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

    Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

    Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

    Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

    Things could get ugly in Game 3:

    One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

    Also, lateness of the check:

    The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

    Fleury suits up (but won’t start) and other Caps – Pens Game 3 notes

    Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been out of action with concussion symptoms, participates in a practice session for the NHL hockey playoffs against the New York Rangers, Monday, April 11, 2016, at their practice facility in Cranberry, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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    The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.

    Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:

    That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)

    Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.

    Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:

    Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.

    Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.

    PHT will make note if there are any swerves.