It certainly isn’t the trophy Nathan MacKinnon wanted to win most this summer. But it’s still a prestigious one, the Lady Byng, and the Avalanche superstar was happy to win it on Friday.
“I am very honored. Some of the best players ever have won this award. It’s very cool,” MacKinnon said, via Zoom. “I respect my opponents. I don’t want to be dirty. I also want to be trusted by the coaching staff that I won’t take penalties and things like that. I guess with my skating, I try to use my legs to stick check and things like that and not try to take unnecessary minors. I never thought I’d win this award. Usually, I get a few more minors than this.”
MacKinnon had only 12 penalty minutes in the regular season, which fits the profile for someone winning this trophy. It goes to the player who exhibits the best qualities of sportsmanship and gentlemanly behavior, combined with a high level of play. As we have seen at times throughout his years in Denver, MacKinnon is someone who doesn’t take a lot of guff on the ice. He dropped the gloves against Arizona in the first round, and he’s been known to bark at the refs on calls he doesn’t like (remember that interference call on him in the Dallas series?).
MacKinnon is a finalist for the Hart Trophy, as NHL most valuable player. League-leading scorer, Leon Draisaitl, is the favorite to win it, however. Some of the best hockey odds sites are saying this.
“Obviously, I am hopeful,” he said. “It’d be really cool to win that, but I am not counting on anything. I think a couple years ago, it meant more to me then than it does now. Whether you win it or not, your career goes on. Your life goes on. Just trying to get better and continue to strive to get better every day and become a better player, a better person and things like that. Obviously, I’m competitive. I want to win everything I’m up for. But at the end of the day, I just want to win the Stanley Cup. It didn’t happen this year. It feels like a bitter, a bitter taste. But we’ll see what happens with the individual stuff.”
(If MacKinnon doesn’t win the Hart, it won’t be because he didn’t get my first-place vote. He got mine).