By Jared Book, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

MONTREAL, QC — The Montreal Canadiens have distanced themselves from a PR-nightmare that was the Pierre Gauthier administration. However, there are rumblings around the league that the Canadiens are holding back P.K. Subban to help them in contract talks at the end of this season.

Photo: Canadian Press
Photo: Canadian Press

Bob McKenzie has said that he has heard that people are thinking this. He also tweeted that he personally disagrees with the thoughts.

We hear a lot that Subban is a defensive liability because of the thinking that he is offensive minded and a person can’t be defensively sound if he takes as many chances as Subban does. I looked back in internet history to see how this started, and frankly, I came up with nothing.

Let’s go back to Subban’s start in the NHL. He was recalled for the playoffs in the 2009-2010 season after the Canadiens blueline was hit hard with injuries. The team ended up making it to the third round of the playoffs that year and Subban didn’t look out of place there after dominating the American Hockey League.

In 2010-2011, he made his NHL regular season debut that was full of ups and downs. He was a healthy scratch for a three-game stretch in December after a torrid start and if Jacques Martin makes you a healthy scratch, it is probably because he thinks your defensive awareness is not the greatest. Remember, this is also when the league was taking jabs at Subban’s attitude notably with Mike Richards calling him too cocky for a rookie.

That same season, Subban actually was third on the team in shorthanded time on ice, surprising when you consider that he hardly sees the ice 4 vs 5 right now. He played 185:03 at 4 vs 5 behind only Hal Gill and Brent Sopel. And his Corsi defensive rating (from Hockey was a team-best 12.9* (which means that he was 12.9 percent less likely to allow a short handed  shot attempt on net when he was on the ice as opposed to his teammates). Not too bad for a rookie.

*Among players with at least 100 minutes shorthanded

The next year, 2011-12, Subban was behind only Josh Gorges in shorthanded time on ice at 199:18). And, once again he was the top defenceman at 22.3. Only Lars Eller was better on the team at preventing shots on the net among players with 100 minutes shorthanded. Again, this doesn’t look like someone who should be sitting on the bench when shorthanded.

However, last year, he played only 57:39 while shorthanded last year – Michel Therrien‘s first – and was behind Gorges, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov and Davis Drewiske among defencemen. When he was on the ice, he had a rating of 17.3 which was second on the team, and top defencemen among players with 50 minutes or more while shorthanded. So even in limited time in the Michel Therrien era, Subban was the best shorthanded defenceman.

It begs to question as to why. Why was Subban called upon so much under Martin and Randy Cunneyworth and why did it stop under Therrien despite his success in that role? The whispers from McKenzie may have some weight. Because despite winning the Norris trophy last year, a lot of people look at Subban as an offence-first defenceman. The fact that there is even a question for his spot on Canada’s Olympic team beg the question as to why and how the whispers exist despite both advanced and basic statistics pointing in Subban’s favour.

Subban’s treatment from Therrien has been put under more scrutiny lately. If the team continues to struggle, you can imagine that will only increase. There is no real evidence to suggest that the Canadiens are trying to de-value Subban, but there is no significant hockey reason to explain why Subban’s minutes at even strength and shorthanded are as low as they are.


  1. Good article, well said. IF they’re are truly trying to devalue him, it won’t work because they can’t take away the Norris. He can go to arbitration next year, I believe. An arbitrator will start with Karlsson’s contract then he’ll his dough on a one or two year deal on arbitration and then can walk UFA. Then the team will have screwed themselves royally.

    I can’t believe it will come to that because Therrien will be canned again!
    As it is he’s a dead man walking!

  2. I will throw this out there; I love the guy’s personality and energy level but I think indeed he is at times a liability. And sure he has an awesome slapshot on the PP but there is a cost defensively. I think PK is not worth 7-8 million which he would be able to fetch. He is though worth a heck of a lot as a trade or even a bunch of first rounders on an offer sheet. I would trade him; fans will be pissed short term but long term the return could really help the team

  3. until he learns not to give up the puck every second time he has it or to stay where he can do some good he should be benched

  4. I don’t think he is a defensive liability, but he does try to do too much with the puck. If you look at all the other elite defenseman none of try to be flashy, it is always simple plays. That is what you need on the penalty kill and late game. If Subban wants to be an elite dman who plays 26 mins a game he needs to make the simple play all the time instead of trying to do it all himself.

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