By Allan Muir
The NHL announced this morning that forwards Patrick Marleau, of the Sharks, Ryan O'Reilly, of the Avalanche, and Martin St. Louis, of the Rangers, are the three finalists for the 2013-14 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."
The award is voted on by the members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists.
Here's what the league had to say about the candidacy of each finalist:
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Marleau tallied his seventh 30-goal season in the past nine years, helping the Sharks reach the 100-point mark for the seventh time in that span. He ranked second on the Sharks in goals (33), was third in assists (37) and points (70), and led his club with 285 shots on goal, fifth-most in the NHL. He played in all 82 games and skated an average of 20:31 per contest but received only 18 penalty minutes. The 34-year-old Aneroid, Sask., native is a Lady Byng finalist for the second time, having finished third behind Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Richards in 2006.
Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado Avalanche
O'Reilly tallied a career-high 64 points as the resurgent Avalanche won the Central Division title and tied a franchise record with 52 victories. He led the club in goals (28), power-play goals (9) and game-winners (6;tied), and the NHL in takeaways (83) for the second time in the past three seasons. O'Reilly was flagged for just one minor penalty all season, joining Butch Goring (1977-78, Los Angeles) as the only players ever to receive two or fewer PIM over 80 or more games. The 23-year-old Clinton, Ont., native is a Lady Byng Trophy finalist for the first time.
Martin St. Louis, New York Rangers
In quest of a repeat Byng win and his fourth in the past five years, St. Louis recorded the seventh 30-goal season of his NHL career (30-39-69). He led the Rangers in goals, points and power-play goals (9) and ranked second in plus-minus (+13). St. Louis ranked third among NHL forwards in total time on ice (1,696:11), but was assessed just 10 penalty minutes -- the fewest among the league's top 20 scorers. The 38-year-old native of Laval, Que., is a Lady Byng finalist for the eighth time in the past 10 years.
We say: St. Louis is almost a lazy choice. Not that he doesn't epitomize gentlemanly play, but the guy is half the size of everyone else on the ice. How else is he going to play? Marleau is a decent option. He plays an honest game. But the best choice is O'Reilly and it's not even close. Unlike the other two finalists, whose role is primarily offensive, O'Reilly plays hard defensive minutes. He's mastered a physical style that punishes while never going over the line. He never cheats on a play. And that one penalty? It wasn't even a foul on another player -- he was whistled for playing with a broken stick. Add in his breakthrough offensive season and O'Reilly has put together a campaign that brushes away the stigma of the Lady Byng being a tribute to softies. He deserves the hardware.