James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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The Return of P.K. Subban

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Montreal Canadiens’ scary little nightmare is over.

No, they didn’t win their first Stanley Cup since 1993. Again, we’re talking about little nightmares here, at least relatively speaking.

Actually, losing P.K. Subban would have been more than a small issue, although from the sound of some of the harsher conjecture, most didn’t realize just how important the 23-year-old defenseman really is to the Habs’ future. It’s easy to get lost in the little things when your team manages a scrappy, 3-1-0 start in which it allowed only seven goals in four contests.

(Note: even with Subban, that’s as likely to be sustained as Patrick Marleau’s 37.5 percent shooting efficiency.)

Anyway, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin won the staring contest on Monday, signing Subban to a stunningly cheap two-year, $5.75 million contract. I’ve heard a lot of rationalizing about the deal being fairer for Subban than it seems - the most reasonable side pointing out that the second season has a more reasonable payout of $3.75 million - but it’s still a ludicrous, ludicrous steal for Montreal.

Look, Dmitry Kulikov is a nice player, even if his fantasy value is limited by flabby peripherals. And Michael Del Zotto probably doesn’t deserve the nickname “Del Zaster,” either. Even so, those two fellow ex-RFAs are no Subbans. That’s true in fantasy as well as reality.


So, what’s the outlook for Subban and the rest of the Montreal defense? I’m glad I assumed that you asked.

Before all that, an important short-term thing to note is that he’s already been ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets and onlookers believe that he’s only joining the team on Wednesday, but suiting up versus the Ottawa Senators. That might be a tough sell for the blueliner, who insisted he’s ready to go, so keep an eye on Rotoworld for updates on Wednesday in particular. If onlookers are correct, he’ll suit up on Saturday. Long story short, Subban will likely be eligible for between 42-43 Canadiens games - health permitting.


With that important logistical consideration out of the way, let’s first think about how versatile and valuable Subban can be. While his points (36 last year) and time on ice (more than 24 minutes in 2011-12) are obvious strengths, he really establishes himself in multiple stat categories. He's hovered around 200 shots on goal the past two seasons, which is all you can really ask for from a blueliner. He's had two double-digit power-play point campaigns and has had 119 and 124 PIM seasons. If you happen to have hits and/or blocked shots categories, he's golden like Pony Boy in those spots, too.

So, yeah, Subban is fantastic. It was really tough to forecast his value because of the holdout, and no doubt, that did hurt; he’s going to miss at least 10 percent of the season as of today’s game.

That mainly helps you realize his trade value, though. What happens to the value of others?


It’s a little complicated in Montreal, especially since it’s such a small sample size. Still, the area I look at his power play, which means three guys are susceptible.

Andrei Markov - When it comes to the guy I call Sergei Gonchar 2.0, Subban isn’t likely to be the biggest threat; his health is. My reasoned guess is he’d get top PP time with Subban unless he’s injured. For the most part.

Tomas Kaberle - He’s been a healthy scratch even without Subban, so this cannot be good for the former Maple Leafs’ already dismal situation. Injuries or really big slumps are all that I’d guess could help him.

Raphael Diaz - The defenseman with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired* name could lose the most value from this signing. Diaz has averaged 4:23 of power-play time per game in 2012-13, up from just 1:39 per game last season. Now, it's quite possible Diaz will get more than a minute and a half per game anyway, but he's far less appealing receiving half the man advantage opportunities he was getting before. Then again, with five points in four games, maybe Subban will need to wrestle with him for those minutes for at least a little while.

* - I will hear no other arguments on this matter

After the jump: more from Monday and an interesting debate

continue story »
James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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