Yes, P.K. Subban screwed up on the goal that proved to be the difference in Wednesday night’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche, but he didn’t deserve to be called out by his coach after the game for it.
When you perform in a market as passionate and intense as Montreal and things go as badly as they have for the Canadiens, everything gets magnified. So, with that in mind, let’s begin parsing the play that led to the Canadiens 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night.
The Canadiens lost the game when Jarome Iginla scored the 606th goal of his career with 2:03 remaining. But it was the play by star defenseman/human lightning rod P.K. Subban that led to the goal. Subban had the puck on his stick in the Avs zone, then lost an edge when after having the puck knocked off his stick by Mikhail Grigorenko, who picked up the turnover and turned the puck up ice, which ultimately resulted in the Avs go-ahead goal.
Therrien kept Subban, the Canadiens leading scorer and arguably most dynamic player, nailed to the bench for the rest of the game with his team desperately needing a goal. And when it came to laying blame, Therrien placed it squarely on Subban. “An individual play that cost us the game tonight,” Therrien told reporters after the game.
It was a high-risk play to be sure. At that point in the game, Subban probably would have been better served by simply getting the puck in deep and making a safe play. But it’s not in Subban’s character to play that way. He perceives himself to be a difference maker and he wants to be the one who contributes to a big goal. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of attitude. Sometimes it results in fabulous things, others it ends in disaster. The latter happened on that play.
But for Therrien to single out Subban for ridicule was a very, very risky move, particularly with a good segment of the hockey population calling for him to be fired. Crossing swords with star players is never a good idea, especially when it’s an error of commission. It’s one thing to blast a player for not showing up, but Subban wanted to do something to win the game. Had Subban not lost the edge on his skate, he likely would have been able to get back in time to nullify Grigorenko’s rush up the ice and the Canadiens probably would have gotten the game to overtime.
There is almost nothing productive about Therrien calling out Subban after the game. At times like these, and Therrien should know this, teams need to have a unity of purpose and have each other’s backs. Pointing fingers and laying blame with individuals is not going to be what gets the Canadiens out of this downward spiral. Did it ever occur to Therrien to perhaps give his player a little bit of support at a time when he probably needed it more than he ever has this season? Subban is a big boy and should be able to take the heat, but it’s probably safe to assume he felt badly enough with how that play ended without his coach piling on.
Subban and Therrien are not exactly Amos and Andy, never have been. Remember, it was Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin who shut down Subban and Carey Price on their post game ‘triple low-five’ celebrations a few years back. I said at the time that it did nothing but suck the passion and personality out of their two best players. And by calling out Subban, Therrien risks taking that edge out of Subban’s game. Either that, or the situation will deteriorate to the point where one of them will have to go. And we have a pretty good idea which one will be shown the door.