“Awarded to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon has been nominated for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy following voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He has been nominated alongside Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues.
You can throw away the criteria for this award, which is meant to honor players for their sportsmanship, because this award has been re-written by the PHWA to be players with low penalty minutes and lots of points. Luckily, MacKinnon has both of those things and is a good person on and off the ice.
This award, and subsequent firestorm online, only accentuates my disappointment with the PHWA and their majority’s seeming lack of knowledge of the NHL and overwhelming homogeneity.
There are a lot of players in the NHL worthy of this award. Jaccob Slavin was mentioned by several of the national writers, those who don’t just follow their one local team and seemingly ignore the rest until they come into town once a year. Ryan Suter, Cale Makar, Teuvo Teravainen, there were many players ignored who aren’t the top one or two players on their team, but contribute a significant amount and do so in a respectful and honorable manner.
I’m sorry, but Auston Matthews is just not one of those people.
In this calendar year alone, he’s been a jerk on and off the ice.
- He insulted Scott Sabourin during a preseason game by name-checking his jersey, definitely not gentlemanly.
- He mocked the referees after a goal of his was disallowed, definitely not conduct of a sportsman.
- Oh, and maybe you forgot he harassed a female security guard late at night over the summer and hid the police report from his team. Definitely gentlemanly.
I know the standard for hockey players can sometimes be quite low, but this season for Matthews goes far below that. Like the list of players quickly compiled above shows, there are plenty of players who could’ve been nominated to be a finalist for this award if those assigned to make the list actually did their jobs.
A few things about the Lady Byng:— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 16, 2020
1. The PHWA shouldn't vote on it. The NHLPA and/or NHL officials should, because they have the context and can give this award value. This is obvious, has been obvious and will be obvious until it happens.
This nomination is a cookie lazily thrown to a player who missed out on the Hart because he’s not as good as the consensus picks. MacKinnon fits that description, too, I should add. Frankly, so does O’Reilly. That’s all this award is and it’s a rotten symptom of how the PHWA and the PHWA voting is organized. Didn’t bother to pay attention to the league you cover? Oh well, searching two boxcar stats on NHL.com should solve that problem in a snap.
Hockey writers in the PHWA are meant to be experts on the league, but every year there are blatant examples like this of how unqualified the PHWA voters are.
Have the voting for these awards be done by a more specialist group. Like the referees, or a select group of the writers, not the whole group. Beat writers carry many local biases and don’t know everything that goes on at ice level by their own team, let alone somewhere else. Diversify the voting block so more unique and underheard voices can share their perspective. Nothing will be perfect, but I sure hope we can find something better than this.
I hope MacKinnon gets it, but mostly I hope Matthews doesn’t, because it would be an insult to Lady Evelyn Byng’s name if he does.