April 23, 2012
Oilers' Eberle gets Byng nom
By DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI AGENCY
Jordan Eberle has never been a guy to take a lot of penalties.
For starters, the Edmonton Oilers winger usually has the puck.
But when he doesn't, Eberle takes pride in being in good defensive position, which keeps the need to hook, hold and slash down to a minimum.
"I've never been one take an overly amount of penalties," Eberle said. "But then again, I've never taken as few as I did last year, either.
"I think it takes a big amount of luck, especially with the rule changes that have been brought in. You also have to be on the right side of the puck, and I think it's a pretty good accomplishment."
Eberle took a total of 10 minutes in penalties this past season to go with his career high in goals (34), assists (42) and points (76).
On Monday, he was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, given to the player that best exhibits sportsmanship and excellence on the ice.
The Oilers sophomore will be going up against Florida Panthers defenceman Brian Campbell and New York Islanders forward Matt Moulson.
Campbell, 32, finished the season second in scoring among defencemen with four goals and 49 assists for 53 points. He also had just six penalty minutes all year.
Moulson, 28, scored 36 goals and added 33 assists for 69 points last season, while taking just three minor penalties.
None of this year's nominees have won the award in the past.
In fact only Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings have won the Lady Byng since the lockout in 2005.
St. Louis was the winner of the award the previous two seasons, while Datsyuk is a four-time recipient.
"I think if you look at the winners in the last six years, Martin St. Louis and Pavel Datsyuk, they are two of the best defensive forwards in the game," Eberle said. "I think a lot of that has to do with not putting themselves in bad situations to take penalties."
The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, will be handed out June 20 in Las Vegas.
The Oilers have twice had Lady Byng winners, as Wayne Gretzky was awarded the trophy in 1980 after putting together a 137-point season with 21 penalty minutes.
Jari Kurri won the award in 1985, after posting 135 points with 30 penalty minutes.
Gretzky went on to win the award on four other occasions, three times as a member of the Los Angeles Kings and once with the New York Rangers.
"I'm excited about being nominated," Eberle said. "The way the season went, I thought I had a pretty good chance at it, and as the season was winding down, there was a lot of talk about it."
Eberle, selected by the Oilers in the first round Ñ 22nd overall Ñ in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, finished the year as the team's leading scorer.
He nearly doubled his goal output from his rookie season and was named to the NHL All-star game for the first time in his career.
Eberle also went through a 60-game stretch where he took just one penalty.
"Coming into the year, I just wanted to improve from the previous year," he said. "I think with the fact that I was more familiar with the league, the travel and how the schedule can wear on you helped.
"The guys around me were also a year older and they were better, so that's a big reason why I had a good year and a more productive year."
Despite the fact the Oilers didn't make the playoffs, Eberle will still be playing hockey this spring, named to the Canadian World Championship team for the third consecutive season.
He'll depart for the tournament Thursday, which takes place in Sweden and Finland.
"It's a fun tournament," Eberle said. "We haven't done as well as we've wanted to the last two years, but I think with the team they've put together this year, we should be one of the favourites.
"Any time you get a chance to play for Canada, you get a little amped for it and having (Devan) Dubnyk and (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins with me it provides a little familiarity, and that helps."