The eighth installment of our 25 Montreal Canadiens in 25 days series is dedicated to defenceman P.K. Subban.
If you were given a dollar for every time Subban’s been referred to as a “polarizing” player, you’d probably be worth at least as much money as he’s slated to earn over the term of his contract.
He’s adored for his unbridled charisma, his awe-inspiring talent, and a confidence that often borders on cockiness. But these are the same traits that led to him being labeled hockey’s “most hated player” by Sports Illustrated in 2014.
Such is life under the microscope as a superstar, and Subban’s proven he can gracefully handle any vitriol lobbed at him.
Subban’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, either.
“I can’t wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in [TD Garden],” Subban said just before the Canadiens were set to play a Game 7 in Boston in 2014. “I can’t wait to take that away from [Bruins fans].”
In addition to talking a big game, Subban has also walked the walk. He’s had triumphs at all levels: Subban is a two-time world junior champion, and earned an all-star invitation, an all-rookie team selection and won the President’s Award (for outstanding accomplishments) in his lone AHL season (2009-10).
As a Canadien, he’s achieved more individual success in five seasons than most would over a lengthy career. As a result of his dominance, he won the Norris Trophy in 2013 and was nominated for a second one in 2015.
No matter how you feel about Subban, he’s been invaluable to Montreal, and at 26 years old, there’s reason to believe the best is yet to come.
Acquired: 2007 NHL Draft (second round, 43rd overall)
Contract status: Eight years, $9M AAV (expires 2022)
2014-15 Stats: 82 GP | 15 G | 45 A | 60 P | 26:12 TOI | 52.1 CF%
Career stats: 366 GP | 57 G | 170 A | 227 P | 23:34 TOI | 55.6 CF%
The book on 2014-15:
Last season wasn’t just a great one for Subban, it was his best yet, and that’s remarkable considering the pressure he was under to justify the enormous contract he signed in August of last year.
As one NHL executive told Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman in March, “Subban is so much better a defenceman now than when he won the Norris Trophy. It’s not even close.”
Friedman’s thoughts 25-27 from his early-March column offered a perfect synopsis of why Subban set career highs in goals, game-winning goals (five), assists, points, plus/minus (plus-22), average time on ice and shooting percentage (8.8).
Subban also appeared in all 82 regular season games and recorded a career-low in penalty minutes per contest (1:32).
There was controversy in the playoffs when Subban got ejected from Game 1 of Montreal’s first round series with Ottawa for this slash on forward Mark Stone.
Stone suffered a micro-fracture in his wrist, but Subban avoided any further supplementary discipline and once again proved dynamic in the post-season, leading the Canadiens with a goal and seven assists in 12 games.
He could’ve been even better though; Subban was terribly unlucky in only scoring on 2.8 percent of his shots (far below his career average of 7.5 percent in the playoffs).
Subban spent part of July on a European vacation through France, Monaco and Greece. He spent the majority of his summer relaxing and training in his hometown of Toronto.
In addition to his usual training regimen, Subban began working with former Canadian Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson in June. Johnson said they met as many as three times a week through July to work on Subban’s strength, acceleration and agility.
How high do you set the bar for Subban in 2015-16? Will he lead all NHL defencemen in points? Will he lead the Canadiens in nearly every major category? Will he be an all-star? Will he contend for the Norris again? All of that’s realistically within his grasp, and regardless of what anyone expects, these are things Subban expects of himself.
It’ll be interesting to note what kind of influence his training with Johnson will have. A recent photo of Montreal’s stud defenceman has him looking leaner coming into training camp and the thought of Subban being faster or more agile has to be a scary one for opposing teams to consider.
Reaching 60 points again is attainable for Subban, especially given his primary role on what the Canadiens expect will be a revamped power play this season. He should also be capable of handling the biggest workload on the team, no matter the situation.
He’ll need to be every bit as good for the Canadiens to continue progressing. And if Subban can be even better, Montreal would become an even more serious contender for the Stanley Cup.