Kyle Connor should become the first Winnipeg Jet in either Jets’ era to win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.
The Lady Byng, first awarded in 1925, is given to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” Hence, a Lady Byng-winner needs three things: high point total, a high average ice time, and low penalty minutes.
Kyle Connor’s excellent 2021-22 campaign checks all three boxes.
Connor’s Offensive Stats are Outstanding
While the Jets’ season as a whole was a disappointment given they underachieved and finished well out of the playoff picture, Connor’s individual campaign was impressive and record-setting.
The sniper, in his sixth NHL season, set career highs in goals (47) and assists (46), with both numbers best on the Jets. He became the first 40/40 man in Jets 2.0 history in late March, surpassed Patrik Laine’s single-season Jets 2.0 goal record of 44, and also surpassed Blake Wheeler’s Jets 2.0 points record of 91.
A consistent scorer with underrated playmaking abilities, Connor flirted with a 50-goal pace until early April and had at least a point in 56 of his 79 games played. He never went more than three games without recording a point.
Connor Rarely Visited the Sin Bin
A successful Lady Byng candidate also must exhibit “gentlemanly conduct,” and Connor has been the consummate one. it’s safe to say he was not on a first-name basis with penalty box attendants, as he only had four penalty minutes in 79 games.
He slashed Connor McDavid on Nov. 18 in a game against the Edmonton Oilers. Nearly four months later, on March 11, he hooked Mat Barzal in a contest against the New York Islanders.
That’s it. That’s remarkable considering he played an average of nearly 22 minutes per game.
None of the NHL’s other top players with similar ATOIs have penalty minute numbers even close to as low as Connor’s. Jonathan Huberdeau has 54 PIMs. McDavid has 45. Mikko Rantanen has 56. The only two relatively close are the Toronto Maple Leafs’ duo of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who had 18 and 16, respectively.
Last month, Connor was asked if he takes pride in being able to play so much and have so much success with staying out of the box.
“I don’t think anyone wants to take a penalty or put their team down on a penalty kill,” he said. “For me, from that standpoint, it’s not like I’m looking to change the way I play per se, it’s just how I play. It’s always been in my game… not looking to take any penalties is just the way I play.”
Zhamnov, Selanne Came Close in 1.0 Era
The closest a Jet came to capturing the award in the 1.0 era was in 1994-95, when Alexei Zhamnov (65 points, 20 PIM, 48 games played) finished as one of two runner ups to Ron Francis.
In 1995-96, Teemu Selanne (108 points, 22 PIM, 79 games played) was one of two runner ups to Paul Kariya, but by the time the award was handed out, he’d been traded from the Jets to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Kariya, a teammate of Selanne’s in Anaheim that season, also had 108 points, but had two fewer penalty minutes and 10 more goals.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.