Why is it so hard for Michel Therrien to praise P.K. Subban?

Posted: November 4, 2013 in Uncategorized
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P.K. Subban 1

This is getting out of hand. I first started worrying when I read Brian Wilde’s excellent column on Friday night at the bar, in which the CTV hockey reporter outlined his fear that Habs coach Michel Therrien was not supportive enough of P.K. Subban.

Writes Wilde: “You would certainly not expect a coach to hedge his words and limit the star’s ice time. Yet this is the treatment we see for the league’s best defender.”

And that was before the Canadiens’ sad-sack weekend during which they lost two games, in Minnesota and Denver. After the second loss, Therrien specifically singled out the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman for costing them the game. Earlier in the season, the Habs reality show 24CH aired footage of the kindly ol’ coach roasting Subban between periods.

So unfair, Saturday in Denver, Subban made one horrible mistake that cost them the third Avs goal but remember that he also set up Brendan Gallagher’s goal by hammering a Howitzer of a slapshot at the Avalanche goalie. Friday, he turned that game around for Montreal, scoring with a similar slapper from the point and doing a trademark spin before feeding Andre Markov for his marker.

Then Jack Todd sent the Subban controversy into overdrive with his Monday Morning Quarterback column, suggesting the coach “put the ‘luke’ in lukewarm” with his recent comments about Subban. Monday I was at a film screening in the morning – the powerful new Quebec film Le demantelment – and while driving around, my blood started to boil as I listened to the folks on TSN 690 dissect this Subban crisis like it was the biggest event since Rocket Richard hung up his patins.

It’s just nuts. But it’s oh-so-Montreal-Canadiens. Here you have one of the best players in the NHL. This is not just my opinion. Can I just say that as early as March 31 this year I penned a blog under the title – Can we at least start the discussion about P.K. Subban as a potential Norris trophy candidate? Of course, P.K. went on to win the Norris – in other words, he was the best D-man in the league last season.

And he’s looking pretty fine this season too. He’s the second defensemen in the league in terms of points, with three goals and 11 assists, just one point behind Erik Karlsson. Sure he makes mistakes but you find me a player on this rather middling Habs squad who doesn’t.

So why does Therrien single out Subban and find it so hard to find words of praise for his star defenseman?

You want my theory? Of course you do. I was talking to a pal the other day who has good contacts in the hockey world and he was telling me how there are many in the hockey establishment who are not wild about Subban. He rubs them the wrong way. Why? Because he’s flamboyant, out-spoken, has an ego on him.

These all go against the Don Cherry rules of hockey – be quiet obedient kids, don’t show any enthusiasm when celebrating goals. In short, leave the antics to Grapes. And Therrien was part of that hockey-media establishment that was so often grumbling about P.K. in his previous job on L’Antichambre (aka The Bitter Ex-Coaches’ Rant Line).

Wilde’s point was that the Habs better realize in a battle of egos between Therrien and Subban, the team has to side with the superstar. But, sadly, the Habs has a history of grinding down superstars. Wilde mentions Patrick Roy who was effectively run out of town by a mediocre coach who never again found a job as a head coach.

But you could also go back to Guy Lafleur who was told he had to become a defensive forward and ended up walking away from the game in his near-prime. The Habs don’t like anyone to be bigger than the team.

They showed that with Subban at the start of last season when they hard-balled and low-balled him into signing for less than he was worth. i said at the time they should’ve locked him up for more years and damn the cost. But Marc Bergevin wanted to treat him like any other player.

And that just might come back to bite him. Subban’s contract expires at the end of this year and here he is on a team where the coach doesn’t seem inclined to go out of his way to praise him. So does he stay come July? Maybe not.

The solution is simple. Make sure Subban’s happy. If a reporter asks about the absurd rumour that P.K. is not making Team Canada, Therrien should say straight up – that would be an outrage! This guy is the most exciting player to lace up for the Habs since The Flower and you don’t squander this type of guy. You do everything you can to make sure he’s a career Hab.

Remember one thing – the coach always get fired. And you can then go pick up another one. There is, however, only one P.K. Subban.

  1. pedro says:

    PK Subban will be the first black player in the NHL hall of fame …..

  2. Alain Goulem says:

    I agree with all of your points, particularly sign him long term and if you choose between him and Therien…pick PK. But we didn’t lose the Flower at the prime of his career. In 85 he was a man in decline. That said lets not repeat the Chelios debacle…Go Habs!

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