The Lady Byng Award is, by definition, given annually to the player who is voted to best combine of sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability.
It is about the entire player’s body of work, a total package of playing the game the right way, at an elite level, on a nightly basis. It is not, necessarily, given to the player with the least amount of penalty minutes, but more about a player’s on-ice conduct which doesn’t have a negative impact on the team.
It’s also a true testament to the regular season had by Sean Monahan when the Calgary Flames centre was one of three National Hockey League players nominated for the award — and the two he’ll be up against at Wednesday’s NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
“You’ve gotta be a player that has had a good season, been productive and been important to your team, combining that with the criteria that they look for in the award,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving. “It speaks to Sean’s season, in terms of his production. He’s obviously an important player for us and plays an important role. Any time you’re recognized for one of the major awards like this, it’s a great accomplishment. He’s able to do the things he does, be productive and play important minutes while not being penalized and doing it in a way that doesn’t impact or hurt the team. Credit to him. When you’re recognize in the manner for a league award, you’re certainly doing something right.”
Monahan is up against Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, who just captured the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff’s most valuable player, and the record-setting Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers.
This is the third time in four seasons that Barkov has been a Lady Byng finalist. O’Reilly, 28, won it before with the Colorado Avalanche in 2013-14 and was a runner up as a member of the Buffalo Sabres last season.
But this is the first time Monahan has been up for an NHL award and he’s among elite company.
“It’s a big honour,” the 24-year-old sixth-year Flames centre said. “Having never been to the awards and getting to be around the best players in the league, it’s going to be a pretty fun time.
“The award goes to show you that you can put up pretty big numbers and still stay out of the penalty box. I thought I had a good year, but the other two guys are fantastic players.”
Monahan finished among the top 20 in points per game, averaging 1.05 with 34 goals and 48 assists in 78 games. His 82 points, a career high, tied Jack Eichel and Phil Kessel for 23rd in the league. He also had career bests in goals and assists, 23 power-play points (12 goals and 11 assists) and 211 shots on goal.
Monahan also became the second player in Flames history to score at least 20 goals in six straight seasons. The only other Flame to do so was Kent Nilsson (1979-’85).
He only had six minor penalties, totalling 12 minutes, which is significant according to Treliving, considering the nightly workload that is shouldered by No. 23.
“He plays a lot and to play a lot and not put your team short-handed or at a disadvantage,” he said. “The more you play, the more opportunity there is … and Sean doesn’t do that. He plays 20-plus minutes a night, he plays top-line minutes, he’s playing on the power play, he’s playing a big role. To be able to do that within the confines of the rules and to not be in a position where you’re putting the team at a disadvantage man-strength wise.
“It’s a testament to his discipline.”
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