The topic of P.K. Subban has never been one that’s been unanimous and it is to be taken with great caution, particularly these days. One can go all the way back to the 2007 draft when NHL scouts were stating openly that Subban was a first round pick talent but his antics could scare teams away, and 42 times, he was passed on by teams before the Canadiens took a chance on him.
It didn’t take long for Subban to find his niche in Montreal and there aren’t many markets better suited for someone loving the spotlight. With his flamboyant style and his charismatic personality, fans adopted him in no time and the love affair only kept growing when he won the Norris trophy back in 2013 and when he committed to donating an astounding $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, for what was qualified as the biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian history.
Since making the big club, while his on-ice play and his relationship with reporters and fans were top-notch, he was regularly getting into fights with teammates in practice. Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher, amongst others, have had their issues caught on camera and all were with Subban. While this was downplayed by some, it raised some red flags for others.
The controversy continued when team GM Marc Bergevin, still unsure about his defenseman’s relationship with key teammates and his ability to be a team player, insisted on giving him a bridge deal, wanting to buy more time to see exactly how Subban would mature and cope in the dressing room. Some fans were outraged by it, but the GM knew something that fans and even members of the media didn’t. Even by pushing the deadline, the team ran out of time and either had to lock him up long term or trade him. We all know the rest: Subban was awarded the richest contract in Canadiens’ history, even higher than the team’s number one star, Carey Price. This $72 million, eight year contract made of Subban the highest paid defenseman in the entire NHL, nothing to stop the critics but this time, they were all across the NHL. This bullseye is likely to follow him for some time still.
While he was selected to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the year after winning his Norris Trophy, Mike Babcock only gave him one game and made him a healthy scratch the rest of the tournament. While Subban remained professional about it, his fans were once again outraged at the “unfair” treatment he was getting.
This past week pretty much sums up P.K. Subban. With less than three minutes left in the third period, with the scored tied at two a piece against the Avalanche, Subban, the last man back, decided to try to keep the puck and skate it in at Colorado’s blue line instead of dumping it deep in the zone. He lost an edge, creating his league leading 88th turnover (14 more than anyone else), resulting in an odd-man rush which ultimately ended up in the Canadiens’ net. The Habs, in need of every point at that time, lost that game. Coach Michel Therrien fell under criticism when he chose to sit Subban in the final minute, down by one goal and qualified the play as a poor decision in his post-game analysis.
Two days later, the Canadiens were facing the Philadelphia Flyers and Subban finished the night with two assists, three shots on goal and over 30 minutes of ice time. He was named the first star of the game and in his post-game interview, he took the opportunity to send a message to whomever in what, once again, can be seen as controversial, saying that “… if people want to be critical, they don’t need to say anything; just look at the numbers. That’ll shut ’em up pretty quickly”.
In that game, controversy continued however when, after another turnover at the blue line, Subban hit Claude Giroux in a questionable way. While Giroux finished the game, he did not play the following game in Toronto. At the time of writing this, it is unknown if the NHL will take some discipline against Subban.
Louis Jean, of TVA Sports, reported earlier that one NHL executive from a Western Conference team had confirmed that the Canadiens were gauging the market for Subban, something that was later denied by the team.
There is no denying that P.K. Subban is a world class athlete and an outstanding individual in the community. He loves Montreal and Montreal loves him.
Far from being a “choice between Therrien or Subban”, the issue here will be from management to determine if the controversial player is worth more on or off the team and rarely do we see star players getting a just return. Also, if Marc Bergevin was looking at trading Subban, it is very, very unlikely that it would happen during the season. While there would likely be 29 teams lined-up to at least ask about him, big salaries like that are difficult to move in the best of time, let alone during the season when many teams are strapped with the salary cap and chasing playoffs’ hopes.
Something tells me that the Subban story is far from over and is to be followed closely.
Go Habs Go!