It isn’t as much a disappointment Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban wasn’t named to Canada’s World Cup of Hockey roster as it is a slight injustice.
The emphasis should be more on the word “slight” than injustice though, with most everyone long having already come to the conclusion and to terms with how there’s just no way to fit Subban in on that right side. Even if that’s due to a Hockey Canada bias against him, Canada is going to be a contender no matter what.
Canada is not going to lose the World Cup because Subban isn’t there. However, it should also be noted Canada isn’t going to win it just because he isn’t there either.
Subban vs. Doughty
It’s not like Subban is that much more of a giveaway machine than the other defenseman who made it, or at least he certainly wouldn’t be over the course of a single tournament. He barely was over an entire season, compared to the likes of, say Drew Doughty, who made the team’s preliminary roster and had just nine fewer gaffes last season (albeit in more games).
That translates to a bit more than a third of a giveaway more per game, which might… might translate to one more than Doughty over the course of the tourney would Subban have been named to the team. But, please, let’s all scream and shout about how Subban is a defensive disgrace in his own zone and how Canada did the right thing leaving him off it.
I mean, how else would you explain all of Subban’s mistakes being amplified tenfold in terms of significance playing in the hockey fishbowl that is Montreal while Doughty plays a few time zones later in Los Angeles after most everyone on the East Coast has gone to sleep. Oh, wait…
Forget fancy analytics if you must. Hockey Canada clearly has by including Shea Weber on the team. Even if you want to look at the traditional eye test and old-school stats (which Weber does have in his corner), the fact of the matter is the talents of Subban and Doughty, this year’s projected James Norris Memorial Trophy winner, aren’t far off.
For example, combined with Subban’s higher 0.22 turnover ratio relative to Doughty’s 0.10, due to Doughty’s 13 less takeaways, any discrepancy in skill is negligible at best. More likely, it’s non-existent altogether if we decide to ignore Subban’s superiority at putting up points, anyway.
Meanwhile, Brent Burns, who was second in the league in giveaways behind Subban (102) was named. One can only conclude he was selected to help round out the blue line because of his offense. And that’s almost fair, even it was at Subban’s expense, because, admittedly in large part due to his career-high 75 points this season, Burns has more points than Subban since the latter won the 2013 Norris (183 to 164). Granted, Burns played a portion of those seasons as a forward, but that versatility should be considered an asset, not a detriment.
No Great Slight to Subban
That’s in part the point, though. Canada has a wealth of game-breaking talent at its disposal and this is no great slight to Subban here. Everyone acknowledges he’s a top defenseman. Many simply have unjust reservations about his defense.
Did he deserve to be named? Undeniably. But so did maybe five others. We’re talking the ability to ice a hypothetical Canadian ‘B’ squad that could win the entire tournament, even beat out the actual roster on any given night thanks to a lucky bounce or two.
Ultimately, this narrative that Subban is a defensive liability needs to end, but so too does the idea among Habs fans that Hockey Canada has it out for him, even if only to save a little energy fighting a hopeless cause.
A Hopeless Cause
Subban’s reputation as a dynamic offensive defenseman who’s also a liability in his own end is about as solidified at this point as Michel Therrien’s as a behind-the-times head coach. And incidents like when Therrien opted to call out his star player last year after a last-minute loss to the Colorado Avalanche aren’t helping either one.
Really, with allies like that, who needs Hockey Canada at all? That’s the attitude Canadiens fans should adopt, because if the excuse for not naming Subban was to give head coach Mike Babcock as close a team as possible to the one that won gold in Sochi in 2014 (with Subban ending up a glorified cheerleader), well… mission failed.
Forget the fact that there was minimal turnover on defense, with five returnees from that team (and please, for your sake, ignore how Jake Muzzin made the team and not Subban, as underrated as he may be). There are five new names on offense, which is essentially a third.
Even if one of those names is Steven Stamkos, who only didn’t play in Sochi because he was injured, that’s a big change and only serves to prove Subban didn’t make the team for the simple reason he wasn’t deemed good enough.
Habs fans know better, though. And if Subban, who injured his neck at the end of the season, doesn’t play in a high-intensity cash grab of a tournament to start training camp, does it really matter?
Who knows? Maybe he channels the snub into a chip on his shoulder all of next season. Ultimately, the Habs aren’t any worse for wear following Friday’s announcement… even if that’s in part because Carey Price had already been named to the team. But that’s another story for another day.
Even if this one is fresh off the presses, everyone should be used to it by now. Especially Subban.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has also written for the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to have covered the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.