Where have all the good veterans gone... and where are all the leaders? Where's our street-wise PK Subban, to fight the rising odds? Isn't there a white night upon a fiery steed? Late at night I toss and turn and dream of what PK needs.
He needs a hero. PK's holding out for a hero until the end of the night. He's gotta be strong, and he's gotta be fast, and he's gotta be fresh from the fight. Yes, he needs a hero, and we're holding out for him until the morning light. He's gotta be sure, and it's gotta be soon, because PK thinks he's larger than life.
Okay, that was terrible, and I apologize for it immediately. But you have to wonder whether Bonnie Tyler had young Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban when she first sang her classic song, because right now, it seems to be a perfect fit.
Subban's "sophomore slump" this season has been well-documented, and maybe somewhat expected after the ridiculous season the young defenseman had last year, but now that we're past the halfway mark of the season, things aren't getting any better. In 48 games, the player who was supposed to be the offensive stalwart on the blueline for the Habs has barely been able to muster 3 goals and 19 points, and he hasn't been all that great in his own zone either. If that's not enough, in the last few weeks, the frustration has boiled over into very public arguments with the coaching staff, and even a scuffle at practice with another struggling teammate, Tomas Plekanec.
Subban is clearly frustrated with his performance, and with the fact that he doesn't seem to be getting any support from anyone. The coaching staff is busy enough wondering whether they'll have to set up job interviews come this April to be bothered with his development. His teammates and the rest of the league probably think he's way too brash for his own good. And maybe more importantly, PK doesn't really have anyone to keep him in check within the organization. The end result has not only been his struggles in the 2011-12 season, but also a very public falling out with both members of the Montreal Canadiens and, quite possibly, their fans as well.
The talk of the town in Montreal since the unceremonious dismissing of forward Michael Cammalleri has been Subban's status with the team. One problem has been seemingly dealt with, now it's time to move on to another, right? Trade rumors have begun to pick up, and many have wondered whether the team would be better off trading the troubled young player before he does any more damage to this team. I can't believe I have to say this, but trading a 22-year-old thoroughbred defenseman because of his struggles in half a season and a couple of public-ish outburst would be one of the worst decisions this organization could possibly make at this point, and potentially the worst decision the team HAS made in 17 years (do the math).
The Canadiens definitely have their problems, and PK Subban may be one of them this season, but he's also a beacon of hope for the future. It should be relatively obvious that no bounty that this team could wrangle in exchange for a player who clearly seems to be on the outs with a lot of people in Montreal could possibly measure up to his potential value, regardless of what the team might have coming down the developmental pipes. So it's time we stop this madness and realize that the Canadiens need to shelter Subban and find a way to mentor him so he stops acting like a child, and starts playing the hockey we know he can play, not look at how quickly they can get rid of him. And mentorship obviously starts with a person, or group of people, that Subban can look up to.
Last year, that person was Hal Gill. Experienced, cup-winning, defense-first Hal Gill, who was coming off a playoff performance that surpassed even his role in the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup victory the prior year. This yea, with the team's struggles, Gill's advanced age, and his inability to step up and take charge with all the injuries the Canadiens' have had to deal with, Gill finds his ice time and role reduced. He's even been the subject of trade talk, as a pending UFA and potentially strong addition to a deep, cup-bound team that could land the Canadiens' a decent pick heading into the February 27 trade deadline. Gill aided Subban in his development last season, and even helped him keep his mouth shut at times when it looked like he might get out of control. But those days are seemingly over.
Subban doesn't need to be traded. He doesn't need to be chewed out by the coach publicly and benched for large portions of games, like he was last Wednesday. He needs to be on the ice, as this team's top defenseman. With all these distractions, it's pretty clear that the organization has failed in supporting and insulating the best young prospect this team has seen since Carey Price. It doesn't help that Subban finds himself playing for an interim coach with no NHL experience, something that certainly doesn't help him in commanding the respect of a proper NHL head coach (and that isn't Randy Cunneyworth's fault). It doesn't help that he has to take orders from an assistant coach that never coached a game of professional hockey in his life before being thrust into a job, thanks to the dismissal of Jacques Martin (again, not necessarily Larry Carriere's fault). It certainly doesn't help that he's being asked to be this team's best skater on a night-to-night bases, and scale back the offensive game he's likely been used to playing his entire life.
The Montreal Canadiens have absolutely no one within their organization that PK Subban can look up to. Maybe Bob Gainey, but he's too busy plotting and scheming somewhere in the depths of the Bell Centre. And that amazes me, because the Montreal Canadiens are normally a team that pride themselves on their history, on the greats and legends of their past, on their legacy. Right now, they could use some of that legacy, one of those legends to help Subban where the likes of Hal Gill can do no more good. No, PK Subban doesn't need a change of scenery, he needs a hero. A mentor. An example. And while this season is just about ready to be a write off, that's something that this team's management is going to have to consider heavily when deciding who to hire for the eventual vacant spots behind the bench and in the general manager's office.
Of course PK Subban is going to go through growing pains, sophomore slumps and struggles. That's a part of any young player's development. But that doesn't mean he has to go through it alone, with people criticizing and yelling at him from every which way.
While dropping any sort of name would be pure speculation at this point, the Canadiens need to look to a Larry Robinson type in order to help a very young and impressionable group of defensemen in their development. Whether that means he can be a candidate for this team's head coaching position, or as a special assistant coach, I don't know. But I do know that something needs to be done about this situation, and the solution isn't a set of very public shouting matches on the bench.