Comments from an NHL coach tend to be interesting. They're often misconstrued and presented without context. Last night, however, Michel Therrien went out of his way to throw his best player under the bus. He looked that gift horse right in the mouth and decided the right course of action was to complain.
And let's be clear, he wasn't prompted. He wasn't led into the question by a nefarious journalist. He singled out a single play from P.K. Subban, blaming the loss on his best player.
Yes, the same player who happens to lead the Habs in scoring despite being a defenceman. Yes, the same defenceman that has been on the ice for over 60% of Montreal's goals this year. Yes, the same defenceman who drives Montreal's offense, all the while playing a solid defensive game.
Hell, it's more than a solid defensive game. Subban is the best defender on the team by a long shot when it comes to avoiding turnovers.
And thus lies the truth behind the famous "Subban leads the NHL in giveaways!" line. The fact is no one else in the league touches the puck as often as Subban. Show me a player leading his team in turnovers, and I'll show you the player that drives the offense.
Without his offensive creativity, not only would the Habs' offense dry out, but you would be left with a mediocre player.
Which brings us back to the comment by Therrien. He wants his players to make the safe plays, but that ignores the fact that Subban is paid to make creative moves. He's not paid to be a safe player. He's too good for that. A safe P.K. Subban is not a real P.K. Subban.
Here's what Bobby Orr famously said about Erik Karlsson:
He'll get caught. I got caught. The players understand how he plays. They accept it. He's fast enough to get back a lot of times. You have kids coming along where (the coach says) shoot the puck up the glass and shoot it in. The coach is letting (Karlsson) do it and since they've allowed him to do it, this kid has been unbelievable. But, let him do it. That's how he is most effective. Is he gonna make mistakes? Yup. Is he gonna get caught? Yup. But the pluses are going to outweigh the minuses.
The same applies to Subban. We've established that the pluses far outweigh the minuses, and focusing on one bad play is nothing but availability heuristic on the coach's part.
Subban drives Montreal's offense. He has no choice. He's one of the only players that tries to create goals. That's why the Habs pay him $9M a year. Not to mention he's one of the only players that makes watching the Habs a bearable experience.
And while Therrien is far from the only NHL coach that could be labelled as reactionary, in many ways this is the straw that should break the camel's back. From the safety of his foxhole, the coach is criticizing the one soldier who is desperately trying to salvage the war. It's cowardly. It's confusing. It's selfish.
Subban could get Therrien fired if he really wanted to. He's way more important to the franchise and city, whereas Therrien will just be another frustrating footnote in Canadiens history.
Marc Bergevin has absolutely no other choice but to fire his coach.
He owes it to the fans, he owes it to the team, and frankly he owes it to himself. It's hard to gauge the value of his players right now, seeing as they're under direct orders to eliminate creativity. This, of course, flies directly against what Marc instructed to the players earlier in the season.
#canadiens Marc Bergevin told his players to play to win and don't be afraid to make mistakes.— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) January 21, 2016
There's no coming back from this. You can't fail miserably all year and then go out of your way to throw your best player under the bus. It's not a healthy reaction by any means. The organization needs to avoid another Mario Tremblay - Patrick Roy situation, which ended up setting the franchise back by a decade.
Let's be clear here: any trade that would send P.K. Subban packing should be considered an unmitigated disaster, unless the return is a player on the same level as Erik Karlsson or Connor McDavid.
The only way this could be worse is if Bergevin doubles up on his error of giving Therrien a carte blanche earlier in the year. He made a mistake then, but he still has time to fix it.
The good news is that you don't have to worry about Subban. He's used to it by now, which is a sad statement on its own. Subban will show up to the next game, and give his all. There's no doubt about it. He'll be around long after Michel Therrien has rejoined the crew on l'Antichambre.
If only more players followed Subban's lead, maybe the season wouldn't be considered a disaster of epic proportions.
And if the coach showed the same resolve as the player he threw under the bus, perhaps the Habs wouldn't be the laughing stock of the league.