The ’12 Days of Christmas’ is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 days of Hockeyxmas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
For the fifth day of the Calgary Flames Hockeymas, we thought it would be fitting to look back on the five Lady Byng Trophies won throughout their franchise’s history. This matches the most amount of times they have won any individual award since their inception in 1972. While the Lady Byng may not hold the same weight as other trophies, such as the Hart or the Ted Lindsay, the NHL has given it out to very highly skilled players over the years.
By definition, the Lady Byng is presented each year to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. The trophy has been awarded 88 times to 53 different players since first being given out in 1925. It has been given out to many incredible players over the years, including Wayne Gretzky, Jarri Kurry, Mike Bossy, Martin St. Louis, Pavel Datsyuk, and many, many more. With that said, here is a look back at the five years where a member of the Flames won the Lady Byng, starting with the most recent.
Johnny Gaudreau has had many terrific years over his six-season career with the Flames. Despite the criticism he has faced for underperforming in the postseason, no one can deny how excellent he has been for the majority of his tenure in Calgary. The undersized 5-foot-9 forward, who the Flames drafted in the fourth round, has put up 445 points in just 464 career games.
While he has certainly posted some great numbers during his NHL career, the only award he has received to this point is the Lady Byng Trophy, which he won during the 2016-17 season. As strange as it may sound, that season was actually his second-worst statistically since coming into the league back in 2014-15, as he managed just 18 goals and 61 points in 72 games. Those numbers certainly aren’t bad, but he is capable of more offence than that.
The only season where he’s been worse than that was this past 2019-20 campaign, where he managed only 58 points in 70 games played. But despite the somewhat low point totals during the 2016-17 season, he still led the Flames in points and played a huge role in them qualifying for the 2017 postseason.
The thing that really stood out that season, and played a huge factor in Gaudreau winning the Lady Byng, was that he had just four penalty minutes (PIMS) over the entire season. To prove just how strange yet fantastic this feat was, the next lowest Flame in PIMS who played a full season that year was Sean Monahan with 20.
The now 27-year-old Gaudreau is not a player who is ever going to put up many penalty minutes given the style of game he plays, but four is nearly unheard of. His other seasons to this point have consisted of 14, 20, 26, 24, and 12 PIMS. It would come as no surprise to see him be able to win another Lady Byng before his career is over.
Unlike Gaudreau, who had one of the lower offensive outputs of his career when he won the Lady Byng, Jiri Hudler had his best. The Czech forward, who was in his eighth season at the time, posted career highs in both goals, with 31, and points with 76. It was truly a career year for Hudler, who had never had 60 points in a season prior. He played a huge role that season in the Flames not only surprisingly making the 2015 playoffs but advancing to the second round, as he was their leading scorer during the regular season and trailed Gaudreau by just one point in playoff scoring.
The 2014-15 campaign was Hudler’s third in a Flames uniform after signing a four-year, $16 million deal with them during the 2012 offseason. He had spent the previous five seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, who selected him in the second round (58th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. While it wasn’t as low as Gaudreau’s total during his Lady Byng winning season, Hudler still recorded just 14 PIMs during the 2014-15 season, which at the time was the lowest of his career.
The Flames traded Hudler to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline the very next season, as both he and the Flames had regressed from the season prior, and Calgary’s management decided it was best to move him for future assets. At the time he was traded that season, he had 10 goals and 35 points in 53 games.
The now 36-year-old Hudler wrapped up that season with the Panthers before signing a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars, which ended up being the last contract of his professional career. While his career ended rather abruptly, it was an impressive one nonetheless, as he compiled 164 goals and 428 points in 708 career games.
The only two-time Lady Byng winner in Flames history is Joe Mullen, who took home the trophy twice in three seasons. The Flames acquired him midway through the 1985-86 season in a trade with the St. Louis Blues, with whom he had spent the first five seasons of his career. He quickly impressed with Calgary once acquired during that ’85-86 campaign, putting up 16 goals and 38 points in just 29 games.
The following season ended up being Mullen’s first time winning the Lady Byng, as he was able to lead the Flames with 47 goals and 87 points in 79 games. He, like Hudler, had just 14 PIMS on the season. That was not the lowest total of his career, however, as he had put up just six with the Blues two seasons prior. Still, it was an impressive feat and proved both what a high-end talent and sportsmanlike player he was.
Two seasons later, Mullen was able to win the Lady Byng yet again after a career season in which he had 51 goals and 110 points along with 16 PIMS in 79 games. While the personal accolades were great, even better was that Mullen helped the Flames win their first and only Stanley Cup that year, posting 24 points in 21 postseason games.
Mullen spent one more season with the Flames before they dealt him to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the next five seasons in Pittsburgh before a brief stint with the Boston Bruins, only to return to the Penguins again the following season. The now 63-year-old finished his career with 502 goals and 1063 points in 1062 games. He was the first-ever American player to score 500 goals and 1000 points in the NHL, so it came as no surprise when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000. After retiring, Mullen spent 17 seasons coaching, the majority of which came between the Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers as an assistant.
Bob MacMillan was the first player in franchise history to win the Lady Byng, as he was given the award for the 1978-79 season as a member of the Atlanta Flames. After being drafted 15th overall in the 1972 Draft by the New York Rangers, MacMillan had stints with the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the WHA, as well as the New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues in the NHL, before being traded to the Flames by the Blues midway through the 1977-78 season.
His talent was clear from the minute he arrived in Atlanta, as he posted 31 goals and 52 points in 52 games to close out the ’77-78 season. That very next year was by far and away the best of MacMillan’s career, as he accumulated 37 goals and 108 points along with again, 14 PIMS, in 79 games. He played one more season in Atlanta before the team moved to Calgary, where he played a season in a half there before being dealt to the Colorado Rockies.
By the time MacMillan’s NHL career was over, he had appeared in games with the Rangers, Blues, Flames, Rockies, New Jersey Devils, and the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite moving around plenty, however, he was a productive player throughout his career, managing 228 goals and 577 points in 753 games. He also appeared in 153 WHA games, posting 27 goals and 88 points.
An interesting fact about this list is that all of the players, including Mullen who as mentioned, is a Hall of Famer, never won any other individual awards throughout their NHL careers. Of course, Gaudreau still has plenty of years ahead of him in the league, so we will have to wait and see on him. But despite the fact none of these players have any other individual awards to their name, they were all fantastic talents. And it is fun to take a trip down memory lane and remember their great NHL careers.
Former Jr. A player turned blogger. At-large writer covering mainly the Calgary Flames. Co-host of Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.