Wednesday, 2 March 2016

P.K. Subban not included on 'First 16' preliminary World Cup roster.

The unfortunate thing about P.K. being left off now is that he only has 20 games or so, and no playoffs, to convince the decision-makers that he deserves a spot on the team.  With the ingrained knocks on him as a player and a person in the minds of conservative hockey people, that's not a lot of time to change those kinds of perceptions.

We've been through this kind of situation before when, with the Canadiens eliminated from the playoffs by the Senators, P.K. was available to join the 2013 World Championships Canadian team, but GM Steve Yzerman balked.
My focus was on the defence corps, a definite weakness at the start of the tourney, replete as it was with Luke Schenns and Brendan Dillons and Jay Harrisons.  Not to exaggerate, but my first take when the roster was announced was that it was definitely underwhelming, and that it wouldn't even be a very strong unit on an NHL team.  Later, Steve Yzerman added Dan Hamhuis, who's a capable, mobile defensively-oriented piece, but not necessarily what the team needed, then publicly stated he was going to stand pat with the team he had, unless injuries struck.

Now, the elephant in the room, certainly in Montréal and online media, was that P.K. Subban was an available offensive force from the blue line yet didn't receive a call. (...)

... this year seemed to point towards the addition of P.K. Subban.  After the Canadiens were eliminated, it was spoken of as a 'fait accompli'.  Why the hesitation?  Did Steve Yzerman worry about team chemistry, with P.K.'s strong personality a concern?  Did his lack of discipline from last season, and a noteworthy lapse in the late-season game against Pittsburgh on national television, tinge the esteem the management team had for him?  How can there not be room on the blueline for one of this year's Norris Trophy candidates?  Did Steve Yzerman relent when Lindy Ruff advocated for his inclusion, knowing full well from facing the Canadiens the last couple of years what an impact P.K. could make on this D-corps?(...)

At the start of this season, I thought P.K. had to play very hard, disciplined hockey and keep his nose clean both on and off the ice to merit inclusion on the Sochi Olympics team.  I thought he'd done a remarkable job of that, despite a couple of blips, and had gone from a darkhorse candidate to one who was routinely mentioned by prognosticators as a sure thing, on the strength of his offensive explosion and stellar play.  Now it seems the battle isn't quite won.  He'll have to be excellent in the first couple of months of next season to cement his participation on Team Canada.

P.K. made it on the Olympic team, barely, almost grudgingly, with the benefit of another couple of months to properly evaluate his performance, with cooler heads.  Now, he'll have to battle the likes of Brent Burns, Alex Pieterangelo and Kris Letang for one of the guaranteed right defenceman spots, and T.J. Brodie and Mike Giordano and others for the 7th D position.  And as we remember from the Sochi selection ordeal, hockey men tend to prefer having a leftie as the 7th D, all things considered, since lefties tend to play the right side more often than righties play the left.

To me, it's a no-brainer that P.K. should be on the team.  He brings something to it that the other contenders don't.  They might be more steady-eddie, but none of them have shown the big-game ability, the clutch scoring that he has.

But Team Canada managers have shown recently that they're a cautious bunch.  They know they have a winning hand, and play it cautiously.  They're like a chess player with material advantage, risking nothing, agreeing to exchange piece for piece, looking to strangle the opponent at the end with that same advantage.

With Mike Babcock at the helm, and a slew of defensible alternatives on hand, it doesn't look good right now for P.K. to make the team.

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