P.K. Subban: Not an All-Star but a Superstar

When the NHL All-Stars were announced, the snubs were talked about just as much if not more than the players who actually made the team. One glaring omission had to be Montreal’s P.K. Subban. Subban is quietly having a good season but signing a big money contract and having the sky high expectations that come with it had fans expecting a lot more. But you can argue Subban is having a better season than some of the defencemen who made the list.

PK Subban
(Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE)

His season to date

Numbers wise, he is ahead of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Justin Faulk, Erik Johnson and Drew Doughty and is tied with Dustin Byfuglien. Subban is on pace to break his career high offensive numbers but most wouldn’t know it. His playing time is up over 25 minutes a night and there is a huge difference to how much offense the Habs create when Subban is on the ice compared to when he is off of it.

The biggest difference with Subban this season has been his defensive play. Gone are the flashy end to end rushes but he has replaced it with a more mature steadiness. Subban still coughs up the puck but that usually comes when he is trying to do too much on his own. The high risk play will always be a part of Subban’s game but that’s what makes him special.

Playing the game built on emotion and instinct is Subban’s bread and butter and trying to make him stop and think all the time is counterproductive to his style. There is a distinct difference of playing smart and going for it and Subban crosses the line on the occasion but it hasn’t been as apparent this season. When you dig deeper into analytics, many of the stats when it comes to puck possession favour Subban.

Marketing opportunities

Subban exists in an NHL era where the humble superstar is embraced while flash is a detriment. In comparison, NFL football embraces the big personalities like a Johnny Manziel, Rob Gronkowski and Richard Sherman. They may create their fair share of headlines both good and bad but the fact is they drive the brand they represent. Guys like this sell tickets, jerseys and create discussion. Professional sports have become a business but they are in the world of entertainment as well.

Any way a team can market their brand is crucial and having larger than life players can go a long way. Some NHL fans pride themselves on cheering for a sport that is arguably the most humble, but a guy like Subban is entertaining to watch and talk about.

A goal like this is vintage Subban. Flashy, exciting and over the top and the fans in Montreal loved it.

Subban has a big personality but he has never done anything outrageous compared to a lot of other players. No compromising photos or quotes in poor taste. He has come a long way since his debut in 2010 and his evolution over the past five years has been a treat to watch. While Carey Price is the Habs’ MVP, Subban is crucial to any success Montreal has too. His 2014 playoffs were outstanding as he led the team in scoring and his play especially against Boston in the seven game series was some of the best hockey of his career.

He is probably one of only a handful of players who can go into all 29 opposing rinks and be booed lustily in every single one of them. Like the famous Reggie Jackson quote “Fans don’t boo nobodies”, it is certainly true of Subban. Everyone in the league knows who he is and fans aren’t shy when it comes to expressing their opinion towards him. You’ll be hard pressed to find the superstar everyone adores as even the best player in the game in Sidney Crosby has as many fans as he does haters.

 Snubbed but not forgotten

The All-Star exists for the purpose of marketing the players and the game so it’s understandable that all 30 NHL teams have at least one representative. But the league is missing a giant opportunity in leaving Subban off the roster. Subban’s talent and personal brand are built for showcases like these as he is one of the most talked about players in the game.

The NHL still lags behind when it comes to the four major sports in North America and when an athlete makes headlines good or bad, there is no such thing as bad publicity especially in the entertainment business. Subban will move on from being left off the roster and continue to be the superstar everyone knows he is. In the end, the NHL All-Star game needs Subban more than he needs it.