While PK Subban is out of action negotiating his new contract, the Canadiens have gone 3-1-0 benefiting from big contributions from the blue line. Andrei Markov has 4 of Montreal’s 13 goals, including all 3 game winners, and stay-at-home defenseman Josh Gorges has lit the lamp already as well. But the biggest surprise so far on the Habs’ roster has been Raphael Diaz; the Swiss rearguard already has 5 assists, getting his name on the scoresheet for over half of Montreal’s markers during the first three games this year.
The season is still young, but Diaz is living up to the potential he showed last year when he earned an invitation to the rookie skills competition during the NHL All-Star weekend. With the rest of the defense clicking as well, Marc Bergevin is suddenly holding all the cards in the PK Subban contract negotiation.
Subban and Diaz, Polar Opposites
It’s hard to argue PK Subban’s value to the Canadiens. The dynamic young defenseman is among the NHL’s most naturally skilled players and his flamboyant personality has quickly made him a fan favorite. Raphael Diaz certainly has talent, but he’s soft-spoken and much of his success comes from his hard work and his ability to make smart decisions.
Where Subban has sometimes been guilty of doing too much on his own and taking too many chances, Diaz is rarely out of place and is becoming renowned for making a great first pass. Diaz is everything a franchise could want in a denfenseman, skilled, reliable and unselfish. Subban, on the other hand, is a marketer’s dream, flashy, photogenic, a little controversial and extremely talented.
Bergevin in the Spotlight
As long as the Habs keep winning, Bergevin can be patient. That means that with every Habs victory, Subban loses a little bit more leverage. There’s no doubt the team is better with PK in the lineup, but the business side of hockey has taken over now and the realities of a shrinking salary cap can’t be ignored.
Bergevin has done a lot of things right in his first year as GM, but dealing with Subban has been his toughest task yet. Bergevin’s reputation will be built on these negotiations, in the eyes of both the fans and the players.
By allowing PK to holdout Bergevin has already proven he is no pushover. Now he must come to terms with Subban both fairly, to keep his players happy, and quickly, to appease the fans.
Rob has been blogging about the Habs since 2011 at MontrealHockeyTalk.com and can usually be heard before every Canadiens games on the MHT Pregame Show.