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To say that fans expected a lot from P.K. Subban at the start of the 2011-12 season would be a considerable understatement. After all, Subban had had a terrific rookie campaign, and most felt that his skill level would shelter him from the dreaded sophomore slump. Unfortunately, the delay of Andrei Markov's return forced the young defender into a more demanding role, and as a result, his point totals weren't quite where Canadiens' fans had hoped they would be. With Markov reportedly healthy and with another year under Subban's belt, will P.K. take the next step towards being an elite NHL defenceman?
Subban's defensive responsibilities increased significantly when Markov didn't start the year with the team, and continued even upon his return. Paired with Josh Gorges, P.K. faced off against the opposition's top players, played on special teams and logged an average 24:18 per game to lead the team. Even though most admit disappointment in P.K.'s point totals, he only tallied 2 less points than the previous year, while his plus/minus increased by 17 points to +9, which was 4th best on the team.
Season Stats: 81 GP, 7 G, 29 A, 36 PTS, +9 rating, 119 PIM, 5 PPG, 1 SHP, 205 shots, 24:18 ATOI
Even with Markov bolstering the roster, Subban will likely play the most minutes and be the unofficial #1 defenceman. It is expected that he and Gorges will remain together and draw the difficult assignments, while P.K. should still get plenty of time on the penalty-kill and powerplay. Whether he sees time on the first or second wave of the powerplay remains to be seen; both he and Markov favour the same position at the blue-line, and unless one is open to compromise, they may not play together. In that event,Subban will probably line up on his off-side with Tomas Kaberle and unleash his one-timer whenever possible.
It is unlikely that Subban's point totals will change drastically this season. In his two full years, he has been the model of consistency, and even with a new coaching staff, Montreal's system shouldn't be too different from years past. An improved powerplay will help (it's got to get better, right?) and his natural progression should yield a slight uptick in his point totals. That being said, it is his peripheral stats that make Subban so appealing from a fantasy perspective. In addition to points, P.K. racks up penalty minutes, shots, and hits; if your fantasy league counts these categories, Subban becomes that more valuable. Thanks to his (un)popularity, he is sure to be simultaneously overvalued and undervalued by some in your league, but the smart money should have him slotted as a 2nd or 3rd defenceman. If your league does include the aforementioned peripheral categories, be sure to bump Subban up a few spots on your pre-rankings.