MONTREAL, QC. — For the entire off-season, fans of all thirty NHL teams have been speculating about their own personal expectations for their team this upcoming season. Whether you are a fan of speculation or not, we all do it from time to time, and I think it’s only normal.
It’s all about analyzing the players each team has at its disposal, how you feel they are going to be used, and what type of return you believe they will give their team in point production and overall play. Take into account potential injuries, contracts, slumps, meteor strikes, and you have yourself many Twitter debates for months to come. Come to think of it, not only do I believe speculation is normal, I love it.
In a recent column, I listed seven Canadiens’ players who could potentially score 20 goals next season, and P.K. Subban was part of this list. Recently, on Twitter mostly, I’ve seen a few discussions, and have found myself in debates on how possible this just is. Although I do believe Subban has the potential to score 20 goals in a season, and although I do believe he will do it in his career, there are many reasons that lead me to believe it is pretty much mission impossible for this upcoming season.
Let’s start with the obvious, it’s difficult for a defenceman to obtain 20 goals in a season at the NHL level, it simply doesn’t happen very often. If you need proof of this, just look at last season where Dustin Byfuglien with what was then the Atlanta Thrashers was the only defenceman to reach this plateau, and he had exactly twenty.
I can hear you already, “It was probably an off year!”. Not really, the season before that, not one single NHL defenceman reached the 20-goal plateau.
Here’s a recap of all defencemen who obtained at least 20 goals, in the last five seasons:
- 2010-11: Dustin Byfuglien (20)
- 2009-10: None.
- 2008-09: Mike Green (31), Sheldon Souray (23), Shea Weber (23)
- 2007-08: None.
- 2006-07: Sheldon Souray (26), Dan Boyle (20)
Over the past five seasons, a total of six NHL defencemen obtained 20 goals in a single season, no easy accomplishment, to say the least.
The other thing that comes to mind is that these defencemen were not sophomores, entering their second season like P.K. Subban will be doing this season.
- Byfuglien was into his fifth season when he hit the 20 goal mark, and this after being muted from forward to defence.
- Green and Weber were both into their fourth season when they crossed the 20 goal mark.
- Boyle was in his eighth season himself when he crossed the mark
- Finally we have Souray, who took nine seasons to reach this mark, and did it with the Montreal Canadiens. He is also the last Montreal Canadiens’ defenceman to have scored over 20 goals in a season, with 26 back in 2006-07.
In my opinion, to expect 20 goals from P.K. Subban this season is setting yourself up for a disappointment, and possibly a Tyler Myers type of disappointment.
In 2009-10, Myers of the Buffalo Sabres, in his rookie season obtained 11 goals and 37 assists, for 48 points, playing in all 82 games for the club during the course of the season. Expectations were very high in his sophomore year and he disappointed with 10 goals and 27 assists, for 37 points.
If you are still not convinced, we can look at other examples:
- Niklas Lidstrom: one 20 goal season, in his ninth season. (19 seasons)
- Zdeno Chara: None. (13 seasons)
- Lubomir Visnovsky: None. (10 seasons)
- Duncan Keith: None. (6 seasons)
Even Bobby Orr, in his second season only obtained 11 goals, two less than his rookie season. It was all fireworks after that however.
In some cases, like Dion Phaneuf, he did obtain 20 goals in his rookie season with Calgary Flames which is quite an accomplishment, but seven seasons later, he has yet to repeat this.
What about Andrei Markov, who some consider, when healthy, to be amongst the top 5-10 defencemen in the league? He has not reached the twenty goal mark once in his career.
Of course, you have your exceptions, and very quickly, players like Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey come to mind. Bourque hit the 20-goal mark nine times over his 21 season career, and had 27 in his sophomore season. Coffey on the other hand, hit the 20-goal mark eight times in his 21 season career, had 29 in his sophomore season, and also had consecutive seasons of 40, 37 and 48 goals with Gretzky and the Oilers, from 1983-86.
However, for a defenceman to have the chance to hit this mark, they have to be the quarterback on the team. They need to be a driving point on the offence that quarterbacks the powerplay. If everything goes according to plan for the Canadiens, this spot has been reserved for Andrei Markov, not P.K. Subban.
I expect nothing more than Markov on the first wave of the powerplay, followed by Subban on the second. That’s the way the money flows my friends.
Side note on Markov, it’s been reported that Markov has temporarily stopped training with the team due to inflammation in his recovering knee. It’s been funny to see the arguments on twitter, between Markov skeptics, who are up in arms that Markov is not yet fully recovered, while the Markov apologists, attempt to calm reassure everyone that this is normal in his recovery. I for one think everybody’s right. Yep. Everyone.
People have a right to panic, Markov was given a hefty contract during the off-season, and this only demonstrates what type of a risk Gauthier took in resigning him to a three year deal. On the other hand, you can’t argue the fact that with the level of hockey he’s played over the past two seasons which is very little, and with the surgeries, it’s not abnormal for inflammation to show up during hard training.
So there you have it, you’re all right.
Assuming this is only temporary, and that he is in the lineup for the season’s start, or short there after, you will have Subban playing second fiddle to Andrei Markov, combined with the defensive minded approach of the coach, combined with the degree of difficult of the event the athlete is attempting to perform (20 goals in a season), so I can’t imagine how Subban, could possibly achieve this in the upcoming season.