by PuckStopsHere on 01/13/09 at 02:17 AM ET
I track the player’s I consider award winners as the season progresses, in part to see at what point in the season the eventual winner takes over as a front-runner. I had been picking Brian Campbell of the Chicago Blackhawks as the Lady Byng leader. He is a good defenceman, who was chosen to be an All Star Game starter (thanks to some ballot stuffing). He is tied for sixth in scoring among defencemen with 29 points and has only six penalty minutes. This is a good case for the Lady Byng and a rare case of a defenceman front-runner for that award. However, there is a better case right now. That case is Martin St Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
St Louis is the Tampa top scorer with 40 points in 41 games (which is quite an achievement given how dysfunctional the team has been). His +8 makes him the team +/- leader as well. If Tampa needs a skater as their All Star Game representative it should be him and not the more famous but not playing as well Vincent LeCavalier (I would argue that goaltender Mike Smith has been the team MVP and would be the best Tampa choice for an All Star Game). While doing all this, St Louis only has two penalty minutes.
In fact there is no player with as much ice time this season who has as few penalty minutes as St Louis. The closest is Eric Belanger of the Minnesota Wild who has two penalty minutes as well in over 180 less minutes played. St Louis makes a strong case to be the player who best combines sportsmanship and talent.
St Louis is an interesting case as far as the Hall of Fame goes as well. He has won the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and the Stanley Cup and yet he has only 545 career points. At age 33, the career numbers make Hall of Fame induction look unlikely despite the fact he has own major NHL awards and is still a top player in the league. A late start in his career (St Louis was 25 the first time he played a complete season in the NHL with no trips to the minors) and a season lost to lockout during the prime of his career (St Louis was the reigning MVP) have kept his career totals down and thus made his Hall of Fame case quite unlikely.
Martin St Louis has a history of gentlemanly play. He has been nominated for the Lady Byng three times (though has never won it). He has been the runner up to the award the last two seasons. He is making a strong case to win his first Lady Byng Trophy this season. He could become the player who is most decorated with awards who does not make the Hockey Hall of Fame - unless he manages to maintain his high level of play long enough to raise his career totals.
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