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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    Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers

    SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.

    Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.

    First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:

    Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:

    Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.

    Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 11:  Connor Murphy #5 (second from left) of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with Alexander Burmistrov #91, Shane Doan #19 and Christian Dvorak #18 after Murphy scored the game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 11, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.

    He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.

    Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:

    Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.

    February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
    Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games

    He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.

    Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:

    Randy Carlyle’s mood? Probably not too chipper right now.

    Brooks Laich wants another crack at NHL (with or without Leafs)

    TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 29:  Brooks Laich #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a puck drop against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 29, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Brooks Laich wants another shot at playing in the NHL. As he told The Atlantic TO (sub required), if that means being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs, then so be it.

    “You don’t win a Stanley Cup playing in the American Hockey League,” Laich said. “If the Leafs don’t have a plan for me with them, I would like to pursue a Stanley Cup somewhere else.”

    Interesting.

    Laich’s biased take: he has plenty more to give at the highest level.

    Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.

    But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.

    Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).

    Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.

    So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.

    Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.

    And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.

    Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season

    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche congratulates Matt Duchene #9 after his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center on December 14, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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    As if the Colorado Avalanche needed another miserable element to 2016-17: Nikita Zadorov suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice that Erik Johnson returned.

    Zadorov injured his ankle after being tangled up with Mikko Rantanen during a Monday practice, according to the Denver Post.

    Update: The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports that it’s a fractured ankle. Yikes.

    Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.

    He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.

    At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.