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Ex-Blackhawk Brian Campbell wins Lady Byng Trophy

Adam Jahns Chicago Sun-Times sports writer is photographed studio Tuesday April 3 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Adam Jahns, a Chicago Sun-Times sports writer is photographed in the studio on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:38AM

LAS VEGAS — The skills and talents of defenseman Brian Campbell are no longer underappreciated. His hefty salary is no longer reason for unwarranted criticism.

After an All-Star season in his first year with the Florida Panthers, the former Blackhawk won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as voted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He’s the first defenseman to win the award since 1954.

It might not be the most distinguished of the NHL awards — it honors sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with ability — but he joins a distinguished list of winners that includes Wayne Gretzky (five times), Mike Bossy (three), Pavel Datsyuk (four) and Ron Francis (three).

“I feel I’m an elite player in the league and feel I can do some great things for a team,” said Campbell, who had only six penalty minutes to go with a career-best 53 points this season. “It’s something I expect out of myself, and it’s nice to be able to get the opportunity to do it.”

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, of course, thought Campbell deserved more consideration for the Norris Trophy (Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson won the award). Campbell played a major role in the Panthers ending their playoff drought, including mentoring younger blue-liners.

“He really had a great year,” Tallon said.

Campbell often drew criticism in Chicago for his large contract, but his impact and value were underrated. Plenty of Hawks lamented his departure.

Winning the Lady Byng can be viewed as another sign of his value.

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