SB Nation writers were recently asked to vote on the seven major NHL awards. This week and next, the results will be unveiled at the main site with today featuring the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, "an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." Here's how Fear the Fin (okay, just me) voted.
Winner: Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild. Since this trophy usually just ends up going to whoever had the best points to penalty minutes ratio, I decided to step slightly out of the box and pick my winner based on who took the fewest penalties despite being deployed in situations that should have made them more likely to clutch and grab and hook. Spurgeon was thrown to the wolves in Minnesota this year, starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone against extremely tough opponents, but still managed to move the puck in the right direction at a better clip than most of his teammates, end up with an even +/- per 60 rating and accomplish all of that while taking just three minor penalties all year long. In fact, Spurgeon has only been to the penalty box four times over his 123-game career. That takes an incredible combination of discipline and own-zone smarts, especially when you consider that Spurgeon, at just 5'9" and 175 lbs., is a waterbug relative to most of his peers. He hasn't received a ton of attention so far in his young career but Spurgeon could easily develop into a Mike Weaver-type undersized shutdown defenseman with more offense to boot and the capability to regularly contribute on the penalty kill since it's never going to be him in the box.
2nd place: Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders. Like Spurgeon, Nielsen played unenviably tough minutes for a terrible hockey team yet still managed to take just three minor penalties all season. His teammate Matt Moulson, who didn't take a penalty all year, will probably get more votes for this award but while Moulson started nearly 60% of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone facing second-tier opponents, Nielsen was playing minutes in which he was far more likely to commit a foul. The Isles are very fortunate to have this guy locked up long-term as he's a veritable swiss army knife of a hockey player, with the uncanny ability to suppress opposing scoring chances while staying within the parameters of the rule book just one of his many uses.
3rd place: Kyle Wellwood, Winnipeg Jets. This was more of a "lifetime achievement" nod than anything else. Wellwood's taken two minor penalties in his last 118 NHL games combined and with him recording the highest-scoring season of his career with the Jets this year it seemed like a deserved honor.