The Satisfyingly Dissatisfying PK Subban

by Jacob Saltiel

This week, PK Subban showed again why he’s largely considered a villain when he, by some accounts, took a power saw to Mark Stone’s wrists and was then ejected from his first playoff game of the season. Senators players and management described the slash variously as a tomahawk, chop, hack, and, most incoherently, as a “baseball-style slash”.* Subban, critical to his team’s success, stormed off the ice, depriving the Canadiens of their best defender, and irritating some Habs fans and nearly all 13 Senators fans. This isn’t the first time Subban has annoyed the home crowd.

Reminder: he shoots like he’s trying to hurt the puck, skates like the Gingerbread man, and can handle a stick as easily as he does a microphone. He’s the best skater the Canadiens have had since Chris Chelios, who was to the NHL’s ’80’s and ’90’s what Subban is it’s ’10’s; a big talent with a bigger personality, who occasional dabbles in hockey’s dark arts. In short, he’s your prototypical NHL star- a seemingly contradictory co-existence of dainty finesse and brutal nastiness. What could any Canadiens fan dislike about his game?

Local drunk-driver, RDS analyst, and former Canadiens coach recently stumbled out of his motor vehicle, and criticized a cop for doing his job by saying some version of “You’re like PK Subban, have no judgement, and are stupid.” It’s fascinating that someone who played hockey for much of his life, then coached for years, and now receives pay cheques to watch hockey would criticize one of the league’s best players this way. Presumably, Tremblay wants the Canadiens to win.

If only Tremblay’s opinion were his own, there’d be no trouble. But some version of that opinion extends to some in the Canadiens’ front office, who refused to sign Subban to a long-term extension when he was first a restricted free agent, and then almost balked at Subban’s salary demands two years later before coming around to the sensible thing and cutting the damn cheque. Watching the clips above, it’s perhaps understandable why people want to modify Subban’s behavior or are skeptical that he’s as good as he looks. Subban adds a little sauce and flair to everything he does on the ice, which is bad enough in a sport where pulling a legal deke in a shootout- which is a skills competition- will have veteran players telling the media about a lack of respect.

It gets worse. Subban also demonstrates the signs and symptoms of a man possessing an ego. He jumps up and down while waiting for passes. He’s been seen on camera pointing figures at his teammates. Even when it comes to charity, he can be a downright ham. In an era where 24CH exists and fandom includes dissecting and analyzing not just the on-ice player performances, but also their off-ice routine, Subban comes off poorly. What makes him fun to watch on the ice possibly makes him unbearable off of it. Not that it matters a lick whether Subban is a good co-worker or a total boor. Nor whether his teammates can stand him or not.

Many fans want their stars to do everything possible to win. When it comes to hockey, many fans, like Bruins VP and managerial backseat driver Cam Neely, want their hockey players to be both artistically skilled and ruthlessly mean. When this player actually appears, in this case Subban, a player who dives, hacks, and bends every rule on the ice in his direction to put the puck in the other team’s net and keep it out of his own, some still complain. Like dogs chasing cars, once they catch it, they aren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Not most though. Élise Béliveau added perspective to Subban’s status as a Canadien and NHL’er. Quite simply, he’s a blast to watch. He’s so good, the Senators broke with the usual NHL routine of describing player injuries as vaguely as possible when they announced with hyper-specificity that Stone had suffered from microfractures and was “extremely questionable” to play in an attempt to get Subban suspended**. Despite only playing a game and a half, Subban has 2 assists and a goal which would have been a murder-attempt had Andrew Hammond actually blocked it with any part of his body. The play-by-play guys call was right on the money: “Struck with ferocity- he scores!” Subban is exactly what his fans want him to be, and everything opposing teams and their fans do not want to see.

Fear him because he’s good, hate him because he knows it, but be happy he plays in your colours. Tomorrow, Subban takes his show on the road, where Sens fans will have the chance to let him know how they really feel about him. But Subban’s been through this before, saying before Game 7 last year in Boston of the hostile home crowd: “It’s going to be great[.] I can’t wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in the building. I can’t wait to take that all away from them.” So do your worst Sens Army, and Subban will do his best.

– With credit to Arpon Basu of NHL.com, Nick Cotsonika and Greg Wyshinski of Yahoo! Sports, and everyone who uploads clips to YouTube like it’s their job.
*Kyle Turris obviously doesn’t watch much baseball, where reports indicate that batters swing the bat more often than they slash with it. It’s unclear if one can even properly attach the verb “to slash” with a “bat”, but it was a brave linguistic effort anyway.
** The NHL’s arbitrary suspension policy punishes results more than process, meaning that Subban’s slash, which happens fairly frequently in all NHL games, usually falls between a 2 minute penalty or a non-call, suddenly becomes suspension worthy because Stone got hurt. No one should hack each other at all in hockey, and Subban’s slash was stupid, to suspend for that play would have been even more absurd than the ejection.

Advertisements

One Comment to “The Satisfyingly Dissatisfying PK Subban”

  1. Something to note: Weber’s deal was front-loaded and his paid salary drops off a cliff after next season, so the Habs are saving a lot of real money, even if they have to pay that cap hit for a longer time. All things considered, I think Nashville looks like they may have gotten the better deal. Subban is three years younger and his contract is only half as long. Much less chance of being an albatross. Amazing trade.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: