a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Thursday, 12 April 2012

04/12/12 Is P.K. Subban The Guy?

P.K. Subban has a bit of a cocky reputation around the NHL, and not everyone likes his style. Perhaps it's just that type of personality that the Oilers could use on their defense. Just how good is Subban? And is he the kind of player that would be worth the first overall pick?

The answer to the first question is that Subban is very good already, and he's likely to get better as he ages and earns more experience. He's a right-handed shot and has collected 76 points in 160 NHL games of his young career, but the points are only part of the story.

At even strength, Subban faced the second-toughest competition among Canadiens blueliners this season, and the drop-off after him and Josh Gorges is substantial. Despite that, his relative Corsi number is second only to Andrei Markov, who played just 13 games this year. That number isn't inflated by cushiony zone starts either, as he has started his shifts in the offensive zone just 46.3% of the time 5x5. He's had some bounces go his way, but the underlying arrows are all pointing in the right direction.

It's easy to believe that Subban regressed a little this season because he posted 36 points after a 38-point rookie campaign, but the workload that he was shouldered with this year was much heavier than what it was in 2010-11. He went from being a minus-8 as a rookie while facing average competition to a plus-9 facing the toughs. He also led the Canadiens in ice time with a massive 24:18 per game, broken down thusly:

Even strength: 18:19 (1st)
Powerplay: 3:29 (3rd)
Penalty Kill: 2:36 (3rd)

At just 22 years old, P.K. Subban is a major contributor to every discipline. So why would Montreal trade him?

There are a variety of reasons. If the Oilers were to offer that first overall pick as part of a deal, Nail Yakupov would be a perfect fit for Montreal. Beyond 33-year-old Erik Cole, the Canadiens don't have a lot in the way of right wingers, and the cupboards are bare when it comes to potential reinforcements. Aaron Palushaj got into 38 games this year, but he tallied just five points.

That's a symptom of a larger problem. The Canadiens were ranked 28th in The 2012 Hockey News Future Watch, and there is very little offense coming through the organization. Adding to the attack at the top of the draft would be a boon for Montreal, but by the time the they make the third selection the two most potent offensive threats are likely to be gone.

What will be available at number 3 is a highly rated defenseman.

Would Montreal accept a bit of a downgrade on defense in order to add an elite scoring threat? Time will tell.  The Oilers may want more than just Subban for a player like Yakupov, but if a trade presents itself they could probably do worse.

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