The NHL has announced the three finalists to be this year’s recipient of the Lady Byng Trophy, which is awarded to the player “who best combines sportsmanship and a high standard of playing ability. The Florida Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov, the Calgary Flames’ Sean Monahan, and the St. Louis Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly are up for the title this year. The Lady Byng is a divisive award; some appreciate the intent behind the trophy while others criticize the criteria used to determine its contenders. The Lady Byng is notoriously hard to win for defensemen and has never been won by a goalie, which begs the question of why players at those positions cannot display elite sportsmanship. The award has more or less been whittled down to a measure of penalty minutes versus ice time and production for forwards, whether that is the fair determination or not. By that standard, the three finalists are strong selections. O’Reilly is a previous winner, taking home the trophy in 2013-14, was a finalist last year, and has received votes in seven of the past eight seasons. O’Reilly, who is also a Selke Trophy finalist, is an elite defensive forward, but served just 12 minutes in the penalty box this season through all 82 regular season games. It is his eighth straight season of 12 PIM or less. Barkov, also a strong two-way player, is a Lady Byng finalist for the second straight year and registered a career-low eight penalty minutes on the year while leading all Panthers forwards in points and ice time. Monahan comes in at 12 PIM of his own to go along with a strong season in all three zones as the first-line center for the Western Conference’s top seed. The winner could be any of these three.
- NHL.com’s Andrew Eide relays news out of Seattle that the refurbished Seattle Center Arena is set to be open by June of 2021. The Seattle expansion franchise ownership group is hard at work rebuilding the former Key Arena, but today have revealed the first timeline of when the facility may be open to the public. While Seattle will not begin play until later on that year at the start of the 2021-22 season, the early accessibility could open some interesting doors to the NHL. Eide writes that the league could consider hosting the Expansion Draft itself or even the NHL Entry Draft at the new home of Seattle’s team if the building is indeed up and running by the expected date. The project is still in the “demolition phase”, as all but the roof of the building is being torn apart and rebuilt, so it’s still too early to know whether the timeline will allow for any league events in the summer prior to Seattle’s inaugural season, but such a possibility would be an exciting start for the new team and fan base.
- Speaking of arenas, Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer reports that the Carolina Hurricanes listed an attendance of 19,202 for Game Four of their first round series with the Washington Capitals. That mark is a new franchise high for the Hurricanes, who have seen a re-surge-ence in their fan base this season. Both Carolina’s play and their fan interaction have reignited local interest, which is great news for the team and area hockey. The Canes are just two years removed from ranking dead last in the NHL in attendance with 11,776 on average. While they only ranked 28th of 31 this year, their average attendance was up over 20% from 2016-17 to 14,322. Their attendance on Thursday night, if compared with averages around the league, would have ranked fifth, just behind Toronto and ahead of the likes of Detroit and Minnesota. Hockey is alive and well in Carolina right now and hopefully that continues.