My 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.
The 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?