Trading P.K. Subban would be a disaster for the Montreal Canadiens

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 2:37 am by Cam Lewis

Apparently the Montreal Canadiens are gauging the trade market on former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. They aren’t actively shopping him or anything, but Louis Jean of TVA Sports tweeted that another team executive he had spoken to said his name had come up in potential trade talks. Oh boy. 

Things are rotten in Montreal right now. After finishing at the top of the Atlantic Division with 110 points last season, the Habs have struggled mightily without Carey Price in net, as they currently sit on the outside of the playoffs with only 23 games remaining in their schedule. 

That said, as bad as things have been this season, and as painful as it’s been to watch, in absolutely no way is trading a player of Subban’s calibre going to make the situation any better. For anybody out there who believes the Habs would be better off without their All-Star defenceman: take a breath, grab a glass of water, and let us remind ourselves just how fantastic a player he actually is. 

I’ll start off by saying that I really doubt the Canadiens are going to deal Subban. Obviously general managers are going to kick tires on pretty much everybody, especially when their team is struggling as mightily as the Habs have been this year, and this rumour has picked up steam simply because it’s exciting and controversial. There’s more than likely nothing of substance to it, but that isn’t the point. 

The point is that there are people out there — both fans of the Canadiens, fans other teams, and people who want to see the world burn — who believe it would be smart for Montreal to trade Subban. And no, not just trade him in some incredible video game style package for Connor McDavid, but trade him because he somehow makes the team worse. 

I mean, just look through the comment sections on articles about him. Like this one from Sportsnet, for example. The last time I checked, 5300 respondents to a poll voted “yes,” Montreal should trade Subban for a centre because he’s a skilled but expensive player. I get that internet comment threads are a terrible place to gauge opinions, as they’re littered with people who post simply for the sake of screwing with anybody who bothers to read them, but still, it’s mind numbing how Subban is being undervalued right now. 

Since breaking into the league in 2010, Erik Karlsson is the only defenceman who has produced more than Subban has. In 423 games over that time, Subban has scored 62 goals and 209 assists, good for an incredibly impressive 0.64 points-per-game. So, yeah, Subban is an elite producer. I think that much is obvious. 

Nobody is questioning his production, though. The qualm people seem to have with Subban is that he makes bad turnovers and inopportune times, he gets caught up ice, and he does other dumb things that tend to stick in people’s minds as overarching representations of his overall game. But if you look at his underlying numbers, and what his teammates are like when they’re playing with him in comparison to when they aren’t, you realize that the good things that he does that the casual observer probably wouldn’t notice tend to overshadow the mistakes. 

Over the past two seasons, Subban and Andrei Markov have an even strength Corsi For percentage of 52.3 when on the ice together. That’s pretty good. But when you take Subban away and look at Markov’s possession numbers without him, it’s a lot less impressive. Without Subban, Markov’s Corsi dips all the way down to 45.3, while Subban’s possession numbers without Markov remain at 53.1. It’s pretty much the same story when looking up and down Montreal’s roster. Players perform better when they’re on the ice with Subban than they do when they aren’t. 

Anyways, as I said earlier, and as P.K. said himself, the numbers speak for themselves. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 12.57.54 AM

So we’ve established how good Subban is, in terms of production and ability to make his teammates better, but it’s important to also hammer home how difficult it is to find a player that’s this valuable. I understand the notion that the Habs are in need of a top centre, but if they use Subban as a bargaining chip to acquire one, they’ll find themselves in need of a top defenceman, meaning they’re really no further ahead. It’s the same as if they were to trade Carey Price. They may fill one hole, but in doing so, they’ve opened another one and will have created a brand new problem to solve. 

Where exactly do you find a defenceman that can produce over than 0.70 points-per-game and play at least 26 minutes per night consistently in multiple different situations? You don’t. Players like this don’t just grow on trees. There are only a handful of them in the league, and Subban is one of them. I mean, Subban is what you hope for when you use a high draft pick on a defenceman, because these types of players virtually never hit the market. 

When you have a player as good as Subban is, you need to appreciate it. Obviously when a player is that good, expectations become high. Also, when times get difficult, it’s easy to scapegoat the team’s best player rather than pinpointing exactly what the problem is. The Canadiens are a disaster right now, and it’s painful, but I can guarantee that P.K. Subban isn’t the problem. In fact, he’s one of the few pieces on that team that are actually a part of the solution.