Subby Relationship Full of Patches

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Character is determined not in victory, but in defeat and right now, the Montreal Canadiens don’t appear to have enough. What they do seem to have enough of however, is frustration. Frustration building up from having started the season with the franchise’s best record ever, to not being able to find their game for the past six weeks or so. And it is palpable, particularly between two of the team’s young veterans and leaders.

It is clear that there is some serious dissention in the dressing room and while the fan base will be split and will start finger pointing, taking sides as their frustration is just as palpable, it is evident that P.K. Subban is getting on captain Max Pacioretty’s big nerve right now… and they better find a way to put a lid on that very soon before it explodes!

First and foremost, the purpose here is no to take sides, nor should it be. But looking at Pacioretty’s reaction on a couple of recent videos, while combining that with the history between the two men, it’s easy to see that neither man will be the other’s best man at their wedding.

If you were living under a rock, Subban showed his frustration last night in front of reporters who were asking him about his first goal in a long, long time.

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Simultaneously, Pacioretty, whose locker is nearby, overheard Subban swearing and venting off and he interrupted his own interview to give the colourful defenseman a stare that said everything. The pot is boiling and the captain is not happy, and if you had any doubt about Pacioretty’s leadership, this was a Bob Gainey or a Jean Beliveau type of look.

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Remember that video posted recently, the one of Subban swearing his way through the starting line-up? You think that Pacioretty appreciated? Have a look at his reaction…

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As mentioned though, this rocky relationship between the two men is not new. Just last year, on national television, the two young bucks went at it and it was even highlighted in a segment of Hockey Night in Canada in between periods.

Or perhaps four years ago at practice? To be fair though, Subban was fighting just about everyone at practice or so it seemed.

SO NOW WHAT

Remember when Marc Bergevin gave Subban a bridge contract and he was pounced on by a group of fans for doing that? Well folks, it’s because of antics like that. While they had no doubt about his hockey skills, Bergevin and his staff had concerns about Subban’s exuberance, which rubs a lot of people the wrong way, including in his own dressing room.

And that’s not new folks. Why do you think that such talent was selected in the second round when his skills set alone made him a sure first round pick? The same question marks were in NHL scouts and other teams management’s mind.

P.K. Subban has shown that he is a great hockey player. He has proven many times that he’s a great person with a heart of gold. His exuberance doesn’t take that away from him. But his need for attention, his dressing room and off-ice antics, his goals’ celebrations, while it is what it is and it defines P.K. Subban, it is not well perceived by everyone.

Hockey is a team sport where all players must get along and pull in the same direction. When you’re winning, it’s easier to live with each other’s’ flaws but when you’re in the middle of a slump like the Canadiens find themselves into right now, those flaws, what gets on your nerves, are amplified and that’s what we’re seeing right now.

Elise Beliveau told Max Pacioretty that while she loves Subban, she always felt like his calm demeanour and his way of leadership was most like her late husband, Le Gros Bill, and for that reason, he was her choice as captain. Something tells me that the organisation feels the same.

So if I’m Subban, I try to tone it down a notch, I stop the finger pointing, I take my pill because if there is ever a tough decision to be made by management, the results may not be going his way.

Subban is human. He’s a loving, fun and entertaining individual. Here’s hoping that he keeps on gaining on maturity, understands and respects that not everyone likes his antics on his own team and that perhaps, picking and choosing his time would be beneficial to everyone involved.

The Centre of Attention for the Habs

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Much has been said and written about what the Canadiens’ needed in order to be considered a contender since the start of this season and with the team slumping as badly as it has in the last several weeks, there seem to be more needs being discovered as time goes by. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the team’s biggest need is to have a healthy Carey Price back between the pipes, not only for his outstanding play, but for his undeniable leadership in a dressing room that appears to be more and more divisive.

Like most, I was thinking early on that the team’s biggest need was a top scoring right-winger to help Max Pacioretty along and while that still holds, there might just be a more pressing need right now on this team. Can we really be satisfied with the production down the middle of the offensive line-up since December?

At the start of the season, I had stated that I didn’t think that this team could take the next step with Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Lars Eller as their top three centres. This feeling got somewhat put on the side burner when Michel Therrien decided to move Alex Galchenyuk to centre and give Eller a shot on the left side. But no more.

Since signing his contract extension, Tomas Plekanec’s play has been well below what we could expect from a guy taking $5-6 million on the cap hit. While he is still reliable defensively, he is way too often invisible on offense, particularly when the going gets tough, a reminder of his playoffs’ performances in recent years. This is not a knock on Plekanec the person, as he is said to be a true professional and a good individual, but his hockey production is well below what the team can expect.

But he’s not alone. Even when he’s playing well, David Desharnais is the fan base’s favourite scape goat. While he started the season in spectacular fashion alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, DD’s production has come to a halt and like Plekanec, it is reminiscent of past playoffs’ performances. With the team struggling to score goals, it’s the offensive players like Desharnais that must suffer the blunt and the undersized centreman is getting more than his share of the blame.

Further, while I truly believe that Galchenyuk will, in time, become a very good centre, he doesn’t seem to be ready to face top opposition at that position and that became evident when he was given Max Pacioretty as a winger. Galchenyuk may become the number one centre that the team has so desperately been looking for, or he may develop into an excellent second line centre but for now, while showing sparks of greatness, he hasn’t taken that step yet.

Some will suggest that moving Eller back to centre the third line would be best for the team and that’s definitely something that the Canadiens should consider, but in my opinion, they need to do more than that. What this team needs more is a quality centreman, preferably one with size, until Galchenyuk takes over and perhaps prospect Mike McCarron is ready to join the big club.

A Steven Stamkos (who can move to the wing later if need be) or an Eric Staal would go a long way in improving the middle line of Therrien’s team and that’s where Bergevin’s focus should be at this time. Forget Jonathan Drouin as he won’t be traded to Montreal. Go after that elusive centre and, if possible, then get a good right-winger. Ideally, two of three between Plekanec, Desharnais or Eller should find a new team to perfect their art.