Skating And Smarts Keep Campbell Out Of The Box
"Not a hundred percent," he said. "I just know I took one dumb penalty. That's the one I remember mostly, shooting the puck over the glass. That was the dumb one."
Campbell can be forgiven for not remembering his last penalty, considering it's been so long. For the record, it was a slashing call in the second period of a 2-1 home loss against Washington on Feb. 17.
It was one of only three penalties Campbell took all season, along with a holding call against Toronto on Dec. 27 and that delay-of-game call, at Boston on Dec. 8.
Couple that with the fact Campbell got more ice time during the 2011-12 season than any other player in the NHL and finished tied for second in the League among defensemen with 53 points, and it's easy to see why the Panthers defenseman is one of three finalists for the Lady Byng Award.
"He had a fabulous year," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "How great to be recognized as one of the elite in the League at whatever category it is. I don't know if that's the last announcement we'll hear about Brian Campbell. He's just been a real go-to guy for us. He plays the game with skill and character and a heck of a lot of heart. That adds up to someone who's very worthy of the Lady Byng."
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By "last announcement," Dineen no doubt meant the Norris Trophy, awarded to the League's best defenseman. The finalists for that award will be announced on Thursday.
For the Lady Byng, Campbell is joined as a finalist by New York Islanders left wing Matt Moulson and Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle.
If he wins, Campbell would become only the third defenseman to win the award, and the first since Red Kelly, following the 1953-54 season.
Since the NHL started announcing three finalists for League awards in the early 1980s, only two defensemen have even been Lady Byng finalists. Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom has been a finalist five times, including last year, and the Rangers' Brian Leetch was a finalist in 1992.
Should he win the award, Campbell would join Pavel Bure as the only NHL award recipients in Panthers history. Bure won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the League's top goal scorer in 2000 and 2001.
The Lady Byng Trophy is given 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 winner is selected by a vote of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, and will be announced at the 2012 NHL Awards Show, June 20 at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.
"It's obviously a great honor," Campbell said. "I don't think too many defensemen get awarded [the Lady Byng]. I don't know why. It's nice to change it up, I guess, and buck the trend a little bit."
This was the second consecutive season Campbell had only six penalty minutes, but he was limited to 65 games last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. In his first season with the Panthers, Campbell played in all 82 games, finishing with four goals and 49 assists.
Campbell averaged almost 27 minutes a game, seeing action on the power-play and penalty-killing units.
Dineen said Campbell's ability to avoid taking penalties is a result of his skating ability and hockey acumen.
"He never really gets caught out of position where he has to take those kind of fouls and infractions," Dineen said. "He's been a real low-maintenance player from the coaching side of it, and it's great to see the League recognize him as one of the top-tier players and class players of, literally, this generation."
For his part, Campbell says he takes pride in playing a clean game.
"You look at some of the stuff that's been going on in the playoffs right now, the game can be played hard and played the right way," Campbell said. "Instead of seeing guys getting hurt, it's good to see guys playing hard, and I think it's starting to clear up a little bit in the playoffs as well."
Right wing Kris Versteeg played with Campbell in Chicago for two seasons (2008-09 and 2009-10) when Campbell had a combined 40 penalty minutes in 150 regular season games.
So Campbell's performance this season was nothing new for him.
"It's not a real shocker," Versteeg said. "I've known Brian for a few years now. It's pretty hard to believe how many penalties he had, but he plays close to 30 minutes a game and only having six to eight penalty minutes this season is pretty remarkable."
Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent