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P.K. Subban’s Game Has Evolved

The P.K. Subban game has evolved over the past year to dominate opponents in other ways compared to Subban's early years in his career.

A classical statement of Darwinism states that those who can evolve to their environment will survive the best. P.K. Subban’s game has evolved over the past year to dominate opponents in other ways compared to Subban’s early years in his career.

On Saturday night, following a 3-1 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Subban was asked about breaking his 34-game-goalless drought and he responded with an explicit rant to the surrounding media.

“I couldn’t give a **** about my first ******* goal in however long. It doesn’t ******* matter. I’m not a goal scorer. It’s not my job to score goals.”

With a nine-year, $72 million dollar contract under his belt, many are expecting The Subban Game to include more than his two goals on the season. To the average fan, two goals is horrendous for his currently salary of $7 million. Subban scored 15 goals last season while being nominated as a Norris Trophy finalist and scored 11 goals in 42 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the year that he won the Norris Trophy.

Those were different times for the Toronto native as he had a different role on the powerplay and had a lot more space to shoot the puck. Now, Subban has changed his game in a way that he isn’t shooting from the point but decides to pass it off at times. He has collected 27 assists in 43 games this season and is on pace to surpass his career-high 45 assists from last season. He ranks third in the league for assists and seventh for points, both for defenceman. He ranks only behind Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec f0r total points on the Montreal Canadiens.

Although he has few goals, he has many assists,which are just as valuable as goals. At the end of the play, the puck is in the back of the net and the player who scores and gets the credit, wouldn’t have done it without the help of some assists. All goal is rarely scored without the maximum two assists, especially on the powerplay. Subban’s 33 points accounts for nearly 25% of his teams 122 total goals. He also has 14 points on the team’s 26 powerplay goals, representing just over 15%.

There’s an old adage in minor hockey in Montreal that Vincent Lecavalier’s father would pay him a dollar for every goal scored and two for every assist, when he was a young player. Lecavalier’s 522 career assists indicates his great passing abilities. Nobody has criticized the 2004 Stanley Cup winner but why is Subban getting all the heat?

P.K. Subban’s Game Has Evolved

Assistant coach J.J. Daigneault, who took over powerplay duties from Dan Lacroix, at the beginning of the season, has mightily changed the approach to scoring with a man up. Subban and Andrei Markov, the mainstays on the powerplay for a few seasons now, used to play on their off-wing to get a better shot at net. Now, they are both on their normal sides and have a greater distance to drive the puck towards the net. Instead, Daigneault wants them to pass the puck more, effectively handing them assists instead of goals when the team actually does score on the powerplay.

As we see in this powerplay goal from December 5, 2014, Subban and Markov are together on the powerplay on their off-wings, allowing for shots and a greater chance to score. Lacroix was the powerplay coach at the time.


However, this season under Daigneault, Subban is sometimes paired with players other than Markov, like Jeff Petry (seen above), Nathan Beaulieu and even David Desharnais. Subban scores the first of his two goals from an in-close shot on his normal right side on October 24, 2015.


Subban, once again with Markov, on the right side, collects a powerplay assist just moments later when Pacioretty scores on January 6, 2016.


As seen in the mediocre-definition screenshots from game highlights, Subban no longer has the easy lane to shoot the puck but has to pass it off more often. Markov also has two goals but has collected a surprise 20 assists, half of last season’s total. If the naysayers are unhappy with the new powerplay scheme, which is ranked 17th in the league at 18.1%, the blame should not be solely directed to the two defenceman.

Of course, the highest paid player on the team does need to score more than two goals a season and upset fans have the right to turn a frown towards Subban when the team is losing and cannot find goals. At this point, a lot of players need to score for the Canadiens and Subban is not the only one who has trouble finding the back of the net, but that’s an issue for another day.

Whether the Canadiens #76 is a goal scorer or not, The Subban Game has evolved into a different style of play and penetrates deep within the armour of opponents with smart passes rather than blasting slapshots. His positioning on the powerplay creates open lanes for his teammates rather than him and has created a new P.K. Subban.

Main Photo.


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