The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded 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 award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Each member with a vote ranks five candidates. The three finalists named are the players with the top three votes received by the points ranking system used. The winner is announced at the NHL Awards, however, this season it is expected winners will be announced during playoff game broadcasts.

Like most of the NHL awards, the criteria has been narrowed down over the years in the minds of the voters to a simple concept. For the Lady Byng, it’s good player who plays a lot and takes few penalties. As Frank Seravalli notes above, defencemen rarely win it. Players on bad teams where they’re hemmed in a lot making desperation defensive plays often don’t rate either.

Matthews had 8 PIM in the shortened 2019-2020 season, his lowest total ever. His highest is 14, and this is not the first time he’s gotten some consideration for the Byng. Of these three only Ryan O’Reilly has won it before.

Many people take exception to players with off-ice criminal charges in their history getting votes for this award, but the PHWA have clearly decided that the gentlemanly conduct requirement applies to on-ice activities only. Auston Matthews was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in 2019, after he harassed a security guard while intoxicated by attempting to access her vehicle while she was inside it late at night. Those charges were dropped as part of the legal process in Arizona to settle misdemeanor charges. Ryan O’Reilly was charged in 2015 with impaired driving after his vehicle ran into a Tim Hortons building in Lucan, Ontario. Those charges were later dropped by the Crown, citing insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.