Tuesday, 28 June 2016

On trading for Nail Yakupov, trading away P.K. Subban

(June 23)

1) If we could get a Nail Yakupov on the cheap, I wouldn’t be against it, but on the other hand we shouldn’t oversell the chemistry angle with Alex Galchenyuk. It’s good that they played together in junior and played well, but we should bear in mind that any two or three good players will do really well in junior, regardless of whether they have an ethereal connection or not.

Remember the immortal Patrick Kane, Dave Gagner and Sergei Kostitsyn line with the London Knights? Should you have moved heaven and earth to re-unite these three in the NHL? Or were two of these guys journeymen NHL’ers?

Pierre Larouche had two regular linemates on les Éperviers de Sorel, and all three scored more than 70 goals in a season, but the other two never played in the NHL. There are many more examples of this, two or three excellent players in junior who won’t all necessarily be All-Stars in the NHL, where maybe one player was carrying the line.

2) P.K. Subban is so much more than just a trade chip to move up in the first round this year. He’s an All-Star who we’re a little sour on right now, because he had an off year, and has a massive contract kicking in soon. If last season he’d single-handedly eliminated the Bruins in the playoffs, he’d be a god right now, instead of a blemish-free god to one half of the Canadiens' fandom, and a disposable trade chip to the other half.

We shouldn’t dismiss out of hand the idea of trading him, like I posted before, if the Oilers shock and awe us with a crazy offer we should listen. And I’m not talking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom, those are the kind of pretty good players/spare parts we got rucinskied with for Patrick Roy. I’m talking a few frontline bluechip parts before we even are tempted. P.K. is no mere trade deadline target who brings back a player, a pick and a prospect.

Aside from that, I believe we should stick with P.K., that some of the lessons of the previous seasons should sink in his thick, thick skull. That he realizes, again, for the fourth or fifth time, that getting the puck on the net on the powerplay is more important than making every shot the hardest one he’s ever unleashed. That getting it in the net, however it makes its way in, is more important than blasting it through the net. That his forwards will be more willing to set up a screen if he doesn’t blast it around their ears every time.

That he can’t/shouldn’t do it all himself, that he needs to play like a #1 defenceman on a Stanley Cup contender, that he needs to protect the puck. That he can’t gamble all the time so often, that when the score is tied late in the game, you protect the tie, but when you’re a goal or two down, that’s the time to step on the gas and force the issue.

P.K. also needs to be a good teammate. It’s a question of degrees. He’ll never be Bob Gainey or Max Pacioretty, but he needs to take to heart the fact that he needs to function within the team, not always be the centre of attention at all costs. He needs to show the emotional maturity to take what happened last season as a learning lesson, that all the feedback is not just noise from the haters, but also advice from people who care for him. Maybe you disregard this blogger and that Leaf-loving jerk there, but when Serge Savard and Guy Lafleur and Yvan Cournoyer chime in, maybe you pay attention. He may be able to help the team by easing off by 10% here, by maybe not yelling and carrying on there, etc.

If your friends kind of let you know in a dozen subtle ways that maybe you’re too boisterous and knock over too many wine glasses at the dinner parties, that you hog the conversation and interrupt others too much, you need to heed that, and maybe tone down your antics, crank it down from 11 to 8 or 9, out of respect for them, so you keep getting invited, instead of treated as the wet muddy dog in the living room.

P.K.’s a big personality, he’s bold and brash, and that’s a big part of his appeal, but he’s also really smart, really thoughtful. He should be able to take all this in, and adapt, grow his role within the team, in the dressing room and on the ice. He’s wearing an ‘A’, he can’t make goofy decisions with the puck in crucial moments that land him in the lowlight reels. Errors of execution, where you fan on a pass or miss a wide-open net, they’re forgivable. Errors born of obstinacy, where you try that pass through the middle in your own zone when coaches have been hammering it to you and all your teammates all your life that it’s a cardinal sin, but you go ahead and try it anyway and get burned and lose the game, that’s bad form. That’s unforgivable.

There are giveaways, and then there are giveaways. If a quarterback throws a ball that bounces off his receiver’s hands into the safety’s lap for an interception returned for a touchdown, he jogs off the field, dusts himself off, and focuses on the next series. It sucks, but those things happen, they’ll cancel out over the entire season, your team will benefit from a similar stroke of luck at some point. But if the quarterback's team is holding on to a lead, and he needs to just protect the ball and drain the clock, but instead scrambles and throws across his body over the middle for an easy INT, that’s not an accident or bad luck, that’s being brain dead. Every couch jockey knows that was a bad play, a horrible decision. The coach is gobsmacked. “What the hell was he thinking? What am I doing all this coaching stuff for? Why do we even bother?…”

Other situations, like when the game is getting out of hand and the going is getting tough is not the time to get into a meaningless fight with an overmatched adversary, that’s not the time to get yourself tossed out of the game. That’s the time to show fortitude and stick it out to the end, not take the easy way out.

When you get a bad bounce due to a puck hitting the ref and it causes a turnover, you gulp down and keep playing hard, instead of having a little temper tantrum at them, while play is going on, which leads to a goal against. You defend, you fight, you lead. And you know the basic rules of the game. And if you don’t know them, you find out, and then take back your misguided post-game recriminations, you apologize.

These are all things that add up, that detractors focus on, especially in the midst of a losing season. But they’re all fixable. They can all be addressed. This isn’t a substance abuse issue like Zack Kassian, something which is very hard to overcome. This isn’t a problem like Jarred Tinordi, who try as hard as he might can’t quite crack the roster right now. P.K. can make changes and make tangible improvements in all these areas.

He’s a big ticket item, earning $9M for the next six years. And with the cap stagnant, with no big TV deals or other new sources of income coming online any time soon, that number isn’t going to look better any time soon. So he’s not allowed to have poor seasons any more. We can’t point to his youth as an excuse any more. P.K. needs to be every bit the on-ice take-charge superstar that Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby are.

I’m confident P.K. will rise to the challenge.

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