This isn’t so much of a typical blog post as it is an impassioned plea to leave P.K. Subban the hell alone. It isn’t a revelation that a segment of fans and media in this town are unreasonably eager to rush to judgement on any growing pain a young player on the Habs will go through. What makes this the “last straw” in my eyes is that Subban is the best talent to come along through the Habs organization in my lifetime since Patrick Roy and the way things are going, Subban will be chased out of town and rise to Norris Trophy-calibre prominence in another uniform.
Make no mistake, I FIRMLY believe Subban will realize, maybe even exceed, his potential. As hard as it is for any rookie in the NHL to develop and succeed, it’s most difficult for young defensemen. It isn’t hard to think of blue-chip defensemen in other organizations who have taken steps back after their initial breakthrough seasons. Tyler Myers and Drew Doughty immediately come to mind. What happens with young players, and defensemen in particular, is that they spend their breakthrough seasons victimizing their foes with talents and assets that are a completely mystery to others around the league. Much like rookie goaltenders often experience success because opponents don’t know about a weak glove hand or a tendency to go down early, rookie defensemen take advantage of similar circumstances.
Last season, the league learned out how good Subban is at carrying the puck and how dangerous he can be rushing up the ice once he gains a full head of steam. This season, opponents started putting more pressure on Subban in the defensive zone to force him to get rid of the puck early and cost the team with the glaring turnovers we have become accustomed to seeing, particularly in recent weeks. What it’ll take for Subban now is to re-adapt to how opponents are handling him.
For Subban to keep developing and make sure his opponents don’t stifle his strength, his coaches have to make sure Subban is listening to them and they have to make sure Subban is as committed to getting better as they are to making him better. I know Subban has that work ethic in him. You can’t come this far and this fast as a professional on talent alone. What Subban also has, however, is the maturity of a 22-year-old kid. What last season’s 14-goal rookie campaign did for Subban was make most people think he had arrived as a professional and maybe to an extent, make Subban himself think that. It’s difficult for a young guy like Subban to be crowned the unofficial prince of Montreal, have fans chase him down the street, chant his name in the stands and not have that all go to his head. It’s a harsh lesson that most young players learn,harsher when it’s learned in a hotbed of unreasonable expectations like Montreal. What you thought was commitment and dedication to your craft turns out to be the type of work ethic that produces average players. Subban is anything but average and Randy Ladouceur along with the rest of the Canadiens coaching staff knows that.
This city’s attitude of wanting results now has hurt the team for the better part of 20 years now. Sometimes “winning at all costs” will produce nothing but losing. The NHL’s successful franchises are given time and understanding that the way to win is to draft and develop their blue chip young talent and tolerating their growing pains on the bumpy road to success. I’m 28 years old and when I think back to the person I was at 22, the change is significant and for the better and I’m sure when you look back on the person you were six years ago, you’d agree. Why should P.K. Subban be expected to be any different from you and me?
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