“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” – Sir Winston Churchill
PENTICTON, BC. — So much has been said around the league, through fans and media, that young P.K. Subban was having a bad year. Some were blaming it on the ever popular excuse of the sophomore jinx, while others simply jumped to the occasion, based on the fact that they didn’t like him, to proclaim that he was highly overrated, that he was a disruption more than an asset for his team.
But while it was noticeable that Subban appeared to be taking more chances, trying to carry the team on his young shoulders instead of relying more on his teammates to make plays, I wasn’t so sure where people were coming from when putting him down the way they were. It was to the point where I felt compelled to do a bit of research and dig deeper than what meets the eye in an attempt to pinpoint what everyone was looking at.
To satisfy the analytical mind, let’s start with the measurable items: stats.
He played more games this season than he did last year, and while he scored less goals, he did rack up more assists, finishing within two points of last year’s total. Goals are definitely “sexier” than assists, so it might play in the balance. While his shots totals are comparable, the fact that he scored fewer goals affected his shooting percentage. His hits, blocked shots and penalty killing time were comparable to last year. There are however a couple of stats which do stand out.
- The not so good: His giveaway versus takeaway ratio took a serious hit, with 32 more giveaways than last year while stripping the puck away from the opponents 11 less times. In hockey terms, that’s a substantial swing, on that he will need to correct in order to keep on progressing.
- The positive: Look at his total ice time. He played two more minutes per game, with three quarters of that being at even strength. He actually led the team this season in ice time with well over 24 minutes of ice per game.
We know that whether it was under Jacques Martin or Randy Cunneyworth, Subban was regularly relied on to play against the opposition’s top line so it would appear that he was playing well enough for the coaching staff to lean on him rather heavily. Looking at the plus-minus category, especially considering how poorly the team has done this year, it’s hard to go against this decision. Subban went from a minus-8 to a plus-9 this season and that, on a team that scored four less goals and allowed 17 more than a year ago!
Let’s go a bit further and look at Subban’s role this year in comparison to last season. Last year, Subban was third in ice time behind James Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik, two veterans who could take some pressure away from P.K. With no Markov in sight, with both Wisniewski and Hamrlik replaced by Campoli, Emelin and Diaz, the Canadiens had to put their young defenseman into the position of number one, perhaps a bit prematurely in his career.
Still though, looking at his season overall, he managed to do a very good job under some extremely difficult circumstances. There is no doubt that Subban has some growing up to do, some maturing to attain both on and off the ice, but I would strongly suggest to let the fans and media think what they want. Let the haters hate on the team’s young stud… and let them drool all over him when he becomes the perennial All-Star we know he will one day become.
Why does this sound so familiar? Oh yeah, we said the same thing about Carey Price not all that long ago…
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