P.K. Subban is in the middle of his fifth season in the National Hockey League. He's an Olympic gold medalist and a two-time World Junior Hockey Championship gold medalist. He has two Eastern Conference final appearances, a James Norris trophy win, and is arguably one of the most electrifying players in the game. And yet, leave the island of Montreal and ask anyone who isn't a Habs fan what they think of him, and you'll get the same response.
"I hate that guy."
It's normal for opposing fan bases to despise top-tier players. Whether it's because they hit one of the guys on the team that you root for, and ended his season, or average more than a point per game against your favourite team, or scored the game-winning goal that ended your boys' playoff run. It's not unusual for Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby or Patrick Kane to garner the attention of the boo birds when they visit barns other than their own. This is par for the course when discussing elite athletes. But there's something different when it comes to the discussion that surrounds Subban.
"He's too flashy."
"That kid has no respect for the game."
"He's a diver."
"There's just something about him."
Yes, Subban is flashy.
No, he isn't a 'kid'. Although I suppose if Sid can still be THE kid 10 years into his professional playing career, my point is moot.
Subban probably has more respect for the game in his pinky toe than most players have in their whole body. From a very young age, he not only wanted to play professional hockey, but he wanted to dominate. He idolized Bobby Orr growing up, not because he wanted to play like Bobby, but because he wanted to compete like Bobby. P.K. Subban strives to be the best player on the ice every time he steps out onto it. He skates hard, competes hard, and leads by example. He wears an 'A' on his chest, and knows what it means to have a CH on his jersey. His ability to thrive in a market like Montreal is impressive to say the least.
Subban is a diver. As per the NHL, "Subban was issued a warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 586 vs. Tampa Bay on January. 6. His second citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident during NHL Game No. 712 at New York on January 29. Subban was assessed a minor penalty for embelishment and Rangers forward Chris Kreider received a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, at 13:05 of the first period."
Yes, Subban dives. Hey, guess what? EVERYONE IN THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE DIVES. So long as human beings (i.e., referees) make reactionary decisions based on the plays that transpire before them, players will sell hooks and trips to draw calls. If your issue with Subban is that he dives MORE than other players (and let's be clear, he does not dive more than everyone in the league, he just gets called out for it more than everyone in the league), then your logic is flawed. If 10 teenagers walk into the dollar store and all shoplift, but only one gets caught, that one kid will be singled out every time he walks into the store. It doesn't mean that his friends aren't shoplifting too, and it doesn't make them better than he is simply because they haven't been caught or reprimanded.
Subban is not overpaid. He leads the Habs in ice time this season, averaging 25:34 per game (seventh among all defensemen in the NHL.) Defensemen of Subban's calibre eat up significant minutes in a hockey game on the powerplay, short-handed, and at even strength. Here's how his salary stacks up amongst other ice time leaders in the league, heading into Wednesday night's games (years left does not include the current NHL season):
|PLAYER||TEAM||GP||G||A||P||SHIFT/GP||CONTRACT TERM||YEARS LEFT||AAV (MILLIONS)||CURRENT SALARY (MILLIONS)|
|RYAN SUTER||MIN||46||1||25||26||29:23||13 YEARS||10 YEARS||$7.54||$11.00|
|DREW DOUGHTY||LAK||50||4||26||30||29:20||8 YEARS||4 YEARS||$7.00||$7.00|
|ERIK KARLSSON||OTT||49||12||23||35||27:02||7 YEARS||4 YEARS||$6.50||$6.50|
|SHEA WEBER||NSH||50||11||24||35||26:25||14 YEARS||11 YEARS||$7.86||$14.00|
|ROMAN JOSI||NSH||50||9||25||34||26:23||7 YEARS||5 YEARS||$4.00||$3.00|
|DUNCAN KEITH||CHI||50||7||23||30||25:41||13 YEARS||8 YEARS||$5.54||$7.60|
|P.K. SUBBAN||MTL||50||11||22||33||25:34||8 YEARS||7 YEARS||$9.00||$7.00|
Subban does have the highest cap hit among ice time leading defensemen, but most of those contracts were signed several years ago (prior to the most recent lockout). What Subban makes is the going rate for a defenseman of his calibre, and more contracts of that nature are what we'll see going forward.
There's just something about him. There is indeed something about Subban. He's black. He's flashy. He takes risks. He's different. He's exciting to watch. He gets you up out of your seat. Your heart stops beating for a split second when he has the puck. There's something VERY special about P.K. Subban. He plays the game of hockey in his own unique way. He doesn't listen to the haters. He's a fierce competitor, an intense player, and an exemplary member of the community off the ice. He doesn't act the way everyone else does. He's himself. Unapologetically P.K.. And what should he apologize for? Being who he is and playing the way that he plays has gotten him to where he is today.
Quite frankly, the league could use a few more P.K. Subbans, and hopefully he'll serve to inspire just that.