BY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]
FACEBOOK: On Frozen Pond
Brian Campbell isn't one for all this sitting around stuff.
Two days off in the past three days? Six days between games? Yeah, it's no surprise the guy who led the National Hockey League in ice time this season would rather be playing than waiting.
“I just want to get going,'' said Campbell, whose Panthers don't open their first postseason in over a decade until Friday night. “We've played a lot of games lately so the time off can be good. But Friday's a long way away especially when you finish on Saturday. It's a long time. We need to be ready.''
Campbell, who averaged 26:53 per game this season, was one of just three (Mike Weaver, Tomas Fleischmann) to appear in all 82 games for the Panthers this season. “I get bored,'' he said, “if I would have played any less. You get to keep your focus when you are on the ice all the time.''
In over 36 hours of playing time, Campbell spent a grand total of six minutes in the penalty box. To consider how impressive that is, Campbell played on 2,354 shifts this season and was called for some sort of infraction on just three of them. Of the top 30 defensemen per time on ice, no one other than Campbell had fewer than 20 penalty minutes.
Campbell hasn't committed a penalty in the past 25 games as his slashing call on Feb. 17 against Washington was his final infraction of the regular season.
“I think I play the game the right way and don't want to be sitting in that penalty box,'' he said with a grin. “I've adapted to the rules and feel like skating is one of my strengths. I can put myself in pretty good position most of the time.''
For that, Campbell is thought to be a legitimate contender for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy which commemorates a player judged to “have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability"
The odds are against Campbell as defensemen usually don't get much consideration for the award – and no defenseman has won it since Detroit's Red Kelly took it in 1954. Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis has won the past two Lady Byng awards after Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk won it four straight years.
Bill Quackenbush and Kelly are the only defensemen to ever win the award.
Coach Kevin Dineen thinks his guy should have a shot at it.
“Boy, what a great choice,'' Dineen said earlier in this season. “Look at his ice time, the defense he plays. He plays quality defense and has been one of our best players all year. I think that has to be taken into consideration.''
Campbell says he's not one for self promotion and, truth be told, the Lady Byng isn't exactly a trophy players aim for. But, to be considered for an official league award would shine a bright light on the great season Campbell has had.
In his first year with the Panthers, Campbell set a franchise record for defensemen with 49 assists. Campbell's assists are ranked second in the league by defensemen and 11th overall. Campbell's 53 points rank him tied for second in the league among blueliners.
Campbell could garner Norris Trophy consideration – an award all defensemen aspire to – although that one's going to be a much tougher road.
Boston's Zdeno Chara, Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville's Shea Weber are the likely top candidates for the league's top d-man honors.
“Playing lot makes it a lot of fun,'' Campbell said. “I've enjoyed this season, it's been fun to be here. The pieces we've have here have come together and there are more coming. We're looking to have a great team here for years to come.''