Yes, I realize it’s a bit of a rough header, but, an accurate one in my view.
I’m under no illusion with the kind of season this young man has had. He came in cold, missing what little bit of training camp there was, as well as six games to kick off the year while he got his contract sorted out.
P.K. Subban’s impact on the powerplay, and on the whole, for this club should put him as one of the MVP’s of the season for the Montreal Canadiens. He finished second in the league in goals by a defenceman with 11 and tied for first on total points with 38. Only Andrei Markov had more powerplay goals by a defenseman, besting Subban’s total of seven by a single goal. He finished the year +12 while playing 23:14 minutes per game in all situations.
His presence on the ice whips opposing crowds into a frenzy and he drives opponents crazy. He’s the guy we love because he plays for us and the guy everyone hates because he doesn’t play for them. We know the potential of his raw talent and so does the rest of the NHL community. And he hasn’t even peaked yet.
Having said that, when I think of a Norris trophy winner, I think of a defensive stalwart. Offensive production counts, definitely, but to earn the best defenceman trophy in the NHL, you have to be the best defenceman in the NHL.
Defensive lapses, game changing penalties and at times, questionable acts and tactics on the ice don’t ring true to the prestige and honour that goes with the Norris trophy. Unfortunately, there’s been too many times this season where I’ve face palmed and wondered aloud “what’re you doing, P.K.?”
His no-look behind the back passes have aged me. Some of his on-ice decisions, whether it’s questionable pinching or a poor choice of passing, leave me eyeballing the bottle of scotch. There have been too many ill-timed penalties to my liking, some of which have cost the team points. His 57 penalty minutes on the year rank him tenth among defenseman. I have no problem with a guy who plays with an edge, but too many of those penalties have been momentum killers for the club.
When it comes to offensive production by a defenseman in the Norris hunt, we can take a look back most recently at Mike Green in the 08′-09′ season. He scored 31 goals and 72 points in 68 games that year. He set a record by scoring in eight consecutive games that year and was only the eighth defenseman in NHL history to score 30 goals. He lost out on the Norris to Zdeno Chara, whose offensive numbers paled in comparison to Green’s. I’m by no means a Chara fan, but, he was the most dominant defenseman in the league that year.
The final nail for me on Subban not meriting the trophy this season was watching Erik Karlsson when he returned from his sliced Achilles. The kid oozes talent and class on the ice. The current Norris trophy holder will not repeat this year because of injury, but I would still give it to him anyway for healing so quickly and not only returning to the lineup, but returning and making a visible impact.
In my mind the finalists will be Kris Letang, P.K. Subban and Ryan Suter, even after I just finished saying it’s not all about offensive stats. Kris Letang played seven fewer games than Subban and put up the same amount of points and a better +/- while logging over two minutes more on the ice per game. He’s defensively sound and does what he can with Marc-Andre Fleury in nets behind him.
Ryan Suter put up a good statistical season with four goals and 32 points in 48 games but he was also the centerpiece on
defence for a pretty so-so Minnesota Wild club. He led the league in average ice time per game while maintaining a +2 rating on a team that allowed more goals against than goals scored.
I firmly believe Subban deserves to be nominated for the trophy. I want him re-signed during the next season and I look forward to watching him develop into that top tier defenseman over the years. If he shores up his defensive game, there’s no reason why he can’t be a perennial threat to win the Norris trophy yearly.
But he’s not there, not yet.