MONTREAL, QC. — Today, owner, CEO and president of the Montreal Canadiens Geoff Molson, named Marc Bergevin the 17th general manager in team history. It was specially exciting for many Montrealers to wake up this morning to the news that Pierre McGuire had not been hired for the general manager position. Those who didn’t really know who Marc Bergevin was prior to his hiring, are getting to know him now. With just one press conference and a few interviews, it appears to me Bergevin is making quite a good impression.
So many items to tackle in such little time for Bergevin, such as hiring a new coaching staff and addressing who to resign amongst upcoming unrestricted free agents (UFA) and restricted free agents (RFA), most notably goaltender Carey Price.
Already today, we saw that Carey Price is a priority for him, when he said:
“Today is my first day, so I’ll take my time and evaluate the players, but when you talk about the foundation of the team, Carey Price is one of the best young goalies in the National Hockey League. If you have a goalie like Carey Price, you’re ahead of the game.”
Good on him for saying this, as Price should be the number one priority, but what about others? I’m talking about the priority to trade P.K. Subban before the trade deadline.
For some time now, I’ve been seeing people push the agenda that Subban should be traded away from Montreal, mainly due to the fact that his eccentric way of being could end up hurting the team more than what he brings to the team on the ice. A few days ago, I decided to play voyeur to a Twitter conversation, which centered around how the Canadiens, without GM at the time, should trade Subban away for the first overall pick, in order to draft Nail Yakupov, currently ranked and expected to be the first overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
Nobody is denying the fact that Nail Yakupov is a star and a stud, and should he stay healthy is expected to become a star in the NHL. In his two seasons playing for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, his stats have been quite impressive.
Nail Yakupov – OHL Stats
Chris Edwards from Central Scouting had this to say about him:
“His first step and ability to control bouncing pucks, knock them down and make a play are the best of any of the guys in the draft, he really gets up to top speed very quickly and his hands are outstanding. Like Pavel Bure, Yakupov is dangerous every shift. He may not have been dominant on every shift like Bure was, but he created something every shift … you have to be aware where he is on the ice all the time.”
Yakupov sounds like a player all 30 NHL general managers would love to get their hands on, but would it make sense for the Canadiens to want to trade away their upcoming star-defenceman Subban, for the right to draft him first overall?
Subban, who was Montreal’s second-round pick, 43rd overall, in the 2007 NHL entry-draft is still only 22-years old, turning 23 this 13th of May. What Subban gets a lot of heat for, is his attitude on the ice which often gets him into the penalty box, and we’ve seen this over the course of his two NHL seasons. Although many consider this past season a bad one for P.K., I see it more as a two-fold season, where he had a lot of difficulty up until the scuffle with Randy Ladouceur, after which things settled down and got a lot better for him.
Sure, he only had half of the 14 goals he obtained in his rookie season, but overall, he was only two points short of his rookie season total, all while improving his plus/minus differential by 17.
His 36 points had him first amongst all Canadiens defencemen, and fifth in points on the team. That’s as many points as Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings) and two more than Niklas Lidstrom (Detroit Redwings) who I hear are pretty good.
At his young age, his 24:18 average ice time per game put him 14th overall in the league. Lots of minutes for someone with such little experience. Money in the bank some would say.
Another interesting stat, P.K. Subban shoots a lot. No really, he shoots a lot! In his rookie season, he finished with 197 shots on goal, and came back this season pouring another 205 shots on the opposing nets. This stat becomes impressive, if you compare this to Yannick Weber who finished second amongst Habs’ defenceman in the shooting category, with his 88 shots on net. Kaberle who is known to avoid shooting at all costs, preferring the passing option was third with 87 shots on goal. It just makes you wonder who would be shooting the puck at the net from the blue line if Subban were not around.
P.K. Subban – NHL Stats
I often feel like many of the frustrations people have with players such as Subban are the fact we create unrealistic expectations. I remember debating in the last offseason on the possibility of Subban getting twenty goals this season. Mission Impossible I said at the time, and I can understand how people who create an expectation for themselves that he will score twenty goals, could be disappointed in a season where he only scored seven. Is he to blame for the expectation YOU created? If you don’t think twenty goals is difficult to obtain, just look at Erik Karlsson, who lead all NHL defenceman with a 25 point lead over his competition, and still came up one goal short from the twenty mark.
Let’s compare Subban’s first two seasons with the early seasons of a few other defencemen. More precisely, will look and see how many seasons it took those defencemen to reach the 76 points Subban currently has.
|1997-98||New York Islanders||NHL||25||0||1||1||50||1||—||—||—||—||—|
|1998-99||New York Islanders||NHL||59||2||6||8||83||-8||—||—||—||—||—|
|1999-00||New York Islanders||NHL||65||2||9||11||57||-27||—||—||—||—||—|
|2000-01||New York Islanders||NHL||82||2||7||9||157||-27||—||—||—||—||—|
As we can see, his early years were not exactly like Subban’s, playing less games, getting less point production, and appearing to be a liability more than aid with regards to point differential. It was only really in the 2001-02 season that he started finding his groove, and blossomed the following year at the age of 25. Although I’m not exactly sure how many games it took Chara to reach the 76-point mark, but we can see it took the better part of five seasons and some dust.
|2001-02||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||41||5||15||20||27||-15||—||—||—||—||—|
|2002-03||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||77||13||40||53||44||9||11||0||7||7||6|
Boyle’s ascension to the NHL was a bit more difficult, in his case, he spent much of his early years travelling between the NHL and AHL. With regards to points, much like Chara, he only really started to produce in the 2002-03 season, when he had reached the age of 26.2
In Shea Weber’s case, the ascension happened a little bit faster than the former two, but he only reached the 76-point plateau in the 2008-09 season, when he was 23 years of age.
There are many more comparables that could be used, like the fact Niklas Lidstrom also only had seven goals in his second season, or that Duncan Keith only had two, but I think I’ve made my point. When it comes to point production, at the age of 22 going on 23, Subban is ahead than many great defencemen of the game today.
So now if we go back to that earlier conversation about trading Subban for the rights to have the first pick of the draft, essentially in my eyes, you are saying that you are ready to trade away (using grade school ranking system below, A, B, C…):
- A rank “A” defenceman, with potential to be an “A+”
- A rank “A” draft pick, with potential to develop into an “A+” player.
- A rank “A+” draft pick.
It’s good to wish upon a star, if that star happens to be Yakupov, but who would play the minutes that Subban plays on the backend? Who would fire away the shots from the blue line at the level Subban does? Sometimes, I’m simply not sure where people get their ideas — in this case trading Subban. He’s the most talented young defenceman we’ve seen in Montreal for quite some time, so let’s not only be patient with with him, but let’s recognize what he’s done so far, as we have a tendency (like opposing teams) to focus on the negative aspects, rather than the positive.
(Photo: QMI/Stats: Hockeydb.com)