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During this whole contract negotiation there seems to have been a lot of animosity built up towards Subban. It's time to examine whether or not that's deserved.
I've been seeing a lot of statements from fans of the Montreal Canadiens lately that don't make much sense to me. Some examples include:
- Subban should just accept a two year deal.
- Subban is still young, so he doesn't deserve a long term deal.
- Subban thinks he's bigger than the team.
- Subban has potential, but he isn't great yet.
- Subban isn't worth more than $3M a year right now.
- Subban is a problem in the dressing room.
All these statements are either untrue or bely a complete lack of understanding of an NHL career. We'll take them on one by one.
"Subban should just accept a two year deal."
Why? What reason does P.K. Subban have to accept a two year deal? He's more established of an NHLer at this stage than Carey Price or Max Pacioretty were when they were inked to two year bridge deals. He's spent 1.5 seasons as the Canadiens' #1 defenseman. We saw last night and last year against the Jets how the team craters when he isn't in the lineup.
What does Subban owe to the Montreal Canadiens that he should accept a below market value deal? He hasn't signed an offer sheet, and there's more than a good chance that at least one has been sent his way, that's loyalty enough. All Subban wants is a long term deal, and fans are going to begrudge him that?
I get that from Montreal's perspective that they have an organizational philosophy to do the 2 year bridge deal at low cost after an entry level contract, but this is something that is fading away. Few organizations are willing to piss off their stars in order to fight for it, Montreal is going to have to modernize. Do you think Alex Galchenyuk will accept a 2 year deal in 3 years? I sure don't.
"Subban is still young, so he doesn't deserve a long term deal."
There's a common misconception among hockey fans that a player's prime is their late 20's to early 30's. This isn't true at all of forwards, but is more true for defensemen. However P.K. is already better than almost every defenseman in the league, so his age becomes irrelevant. Bringing age into the conversation makes no sense if you're shooting for short term. If anything, it makes sense to give Subban term now, and lock down nearly his entire prime.
Then there's Subban's well being to consider. Why would he jeopardize his own earning power to do the Canadiens a favour? What if Subban signed a two year deal, played two amazing years, won two Norris Trophies, then suffered a career ending injury in the playoffs of the second year? He would be without a contract to insure him the rest of his life, and his earning power through hockey would be over at 4 years. There's literally no reason for P.K. Subban to accept that kind of deal when he knows he's worth much more.
"Subban thinks he's bigger than the team."
This one comes from the people who believe this has anything to do with the team. It doesn't. This negotiation is between the business that is the Montreal Canadiens, and P.K. Subban. This is the business part of hockey. At no point has Subban said anything in his entire career that would insinuate that he believes he's bigger than the team. Brian Gionta said at the outset of training camp that players understood the business of the game and would work through whatever the situation was. He also mentioned that people who don't get that don't belong in the NHL. There's a separation between what goes on in Bergevin's office and what happens in the dressing room. Anyone who repeats the above phrase is full of a special kind of bullshit.
"Subban has potential, but he isn't great yet."
Bruce Peter has a post coming out on this very subject, so I'm not going to post too much here. But frankly, if you believe this to be true, you need to take Jacques Martin's advice and do your research.
"Subban isn't worth more than $3M a year right now."
A list of defensemen who aren't as good as Subban while making over $3M a year: Sheldon Souray, Francois Beauchemin, Bryan Allen, Johnny Boychuck, Dennis Seidenberg, Tyler Myers, Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, Jay Bouwmeester, Dennis Wideman, Mark Giordano, Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson, Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Niklas Kronwall, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson, Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz, Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, Filip Kuba, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Ryan Suter, Tom Gilbert, Tomas Kaberle, Josh Gorges, Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky, Henrik Tallinder, Bryce Salvador, Mark Streit, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann, Keith Yandle, Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Brad Stuart, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Barret Jackman, Matt Carle, Eric Brewer, Sami Salo, Mattias Ohlund, Mike Komisarek, John-Michael Liles, Jason Garrison, Keith Ballard, Alexander Edler, Mike Green, John Carlson, Roman Hamrlik, Dustin Byfuglien, Ron Hainsey, and Tobias Enstrom.
Some of these players were signed as UFAs, some as RFAs, in the end all that matters is the length of this list to see how absolutely absurd that statement is. And I was being very generous to a few players in not counting Subban as better than them.
"Subban is a problem in the dressing room."
Seeing this statement is how you can tell if someone is an idiot. This person is parroting a rumour of a whisper of some hearsay that their second cousin heard from their friend who's great aunt Lucille is a member of the Habs janitorial staff that one time saw Subban and a teammate disagree about whether or not Carey Price leans to the left when he's lassoing a cow.
There has never been any hint of Subban being bad in the room until this negotiation. There are players that don't like his exuberance, so what? You think every 23 man roster are all best friends and hang out all together on weekends and non-game days? Have you ever been on a team? Do you really think 18 year old rookies are super best friends with 40 year old grizzled vets? There are always going to be disagreements and tensions. What matters is that the team is better in both long and short terms with Subban in the lineup.