FanPost

Does P.K. Subban live up to the hype and the cost?

Not to be a broken record, as I know I've said it elsewhere on this site, and not to seem like I'm ragging on people for their opinions as we're all entitled to them, but in my opinion P.K. Subban is not a true #1 D and more to the point as a Stars fan I do not see him as a good potential acquisition target for Dallas, particularly not right now.

Here's my editorial opinion of the player and situation. Strap in folks, because I'm not good at brevity.

He's a flashy, smooth skater that takes the puck end to end!

Yes, and on most of those exciting rushes with the puck he ends up tattooing the glass with a shot, or getting stripped at the blueline only to watch the opposition charge right back with an odd-man rush.

He ate up minutes on the blue line!

Yes, on a D corps both hobbled by injury and riddled with mediocrity. He also led them in penalty minutes - more on this later.

He ran their power play!

Yes, he ran it clear to 14.3%, good for 28th in the league. He did pot 14 points on it, which isn't bad, but Goligoski and Robidas collected 9 points a piece on Dallas's historically terrible PP last year.

He has like 70 points in two seasons!

Yes, and you SHOULD see 30-something points per season from someone playing #1 minutes. Yes Subban is young, yes he might grow into greater points production, but he's currently at best a marginal offensive upgrade over Goligoski and will be markedly more expensive and likely worse defensively - not to mention the PiM, which is still coming.


2010-2011 Stephane Robidas: 81 GP, 30 points, 67 PiM, .37ppg
2011-2012 Stephane Robidas: 75 GP, 22 points, 48 PiM, .29ppg
2010-2011 Alex Goligoski [Penguins]: 60 GP, 31 points, 28 PiM, .52ppg
2010-2011 Alex Goligoski [Stars]: 23 GP, 15 points, 12 PiM, .65ppg
2011-2012 Alex Goligoski: 71 GP, 30 points, 16 PiM, .42ppg
2010-2011 P.K. Subban: 77 GP, 38 points, 124 PiM, .49ppg
2011-2012 P.K. Subban: 81 GP, 36 points, 119 PiM, .44ppg

Subban spends twice as long in the box per season as Robidas, and puts up only a very incremental amount more points than Goligoski did - and Alex spent one-seventh the time in the box last season. Didn't Dallas just ship out several of their penalty box parade leaders to try and get the PK-PP numbers more even?

For comparison, here are a few names you may recognize from '11-12:

Zdeno Chara - 86 PiM
Dion Phaneuf - 92 PiM
Kevin Bieksa - 94 PiM
P.K. Subban - 119 PiM

P.K. led the league in defenseman PiM last year, surpassing such players as Adam McQuaid, Stu Bickel, and Andy Sutton. To be fair, if Sutton hadn't spent a quarter of the season suspended and another quarter injured he likely would have given P.K. a run for his money.

Remember how much time Souray spent in the box for the Stars? 73 minutes. P.K. spent only 37 fewer minutes in the box than Steve Ott last year. Minus a few outlier "nasty power forwards" like Milan Lucic, Scott Hartnell, Corey Perry, and the surprising David Clarkson, just about every player in the league that managed to get higher on the PiM list than Subban last year was a 4th liner or an agitator.

His rookie year? 3rd in defensemen PiM. 12 minutes behind Matt Carkner, 1 minute ahead of Deryk Engelland. That's right, Subban was just behind or even ahead of knuckle-dragger Ds in PiM his rookie year.
Snarl is fine, but you don't want your "skill" top-pair D spending that much time in the box. Derian Hatcher P.K. is not - he should be on the ice or on the bench, not in the box.

At entry-level cost, Subban has been a steal for the Canadiens, no question. Assuming his skills refine further and he retains #1, PP-quarterbacking minutes, he may well blossom into a ~45-50 point/season defenseman, which yes is very good; it's league top 10 range. Maybe his PiM come down some with maturity, but odds are he'll continue to be a chippy, chirping player even if he reigns it in a little, so I would say at best you're looking at ~70 PiM a season for him (penalized in roughly half his games in other words, although I expect him to stick more at the ~90 range). You get more cost than just his PiM, too.

One of these other costs is his attitude problem. He's gotten into dust-ups with teammates and coaches both, which are not unheard of from time to time but when added together with other factors such as how he's comported himself during his contract negotiations does not tell a promising tale of character. He's been sniping at his team's offers in the press while speaking of himself as though he was a Norris candidate.

Another of these costs? Literal cost. Right now, based on a small sample size from a team lacking defensive depth last season, Subban is in a place of (relative) strength and high demand. Make no mistake, he will command a cap hit and salary higher than Goligoski, while likely providing approximately the same on-ice quality of play - and we all know how popular a whipping post the Goligoski contract is. Don't forget, while he'll probably outscore Goligoski - if he retains #1 minutes, which I maintain is playing him beyond his optimal depth - he'll likely be in the box five times as often as Goligoski, meaning that many more penalties for the Stars to kill.

Subban is reportedly (yes, take that with a grain of salt) saying the Canadiens are in the neighborhood of $3 million off the salary number he thinks he should get, and again reportedly (again grain of salt) the Canadiens are offering him about $3 million/yr - meaning he thinks he should be making about $6 million/yr. For comparison, Erik Karlsson has a cap hit of ~6.5 million and he just got that contract after winning the Norris with 78 points in 2011-2012. Weber and Suter are at about 7.5 million and Chara is around 7 million.

This completely ignores the cost of simply acquiring him, as he's an RFA. If tendered an offer sheet and signed, the Stars would yield draft picks in accordance with his contract cost; they would likely be losing multiple early-round picks. How many and how high? Think a 1st, a 2nd, and a 3rd rounder, possibly "only" a 1st and a 3rd. Another possibility is that he may be moved as a post-signing trade. If the Stars trade for him after he signs with the Canadiens, rest assured the Habs will want someone like a Loui Eriksson or similar worth in return. Marc Bergevin will not take the Stars' table scraps for a player whose stock is currently so high.

Maybe in 2-4 years Subban matures and really grows into his potential and becomes a true #1 D, but right now he's been forced up the lineup by personnel issues in Montreal and on a team with reasonable depth at the blueline would likely be a second-pairing D, perhaps a "skill" #2. No the Stars do not have reasonable top-end depth at the blueline right now, but it looks like they may be in for a logjam of #3-6 defensemen - which situation is not improved by adding another #2-3.

If the Stars go out and somehow acquire a defenseman soon, it needs to be an unquestioned #1 D. Someone in the neighborhood of a Suter, a Chara, a Weber - and nobody is moving defensemen of this caliber because a true #1 D is about as rare a commodity as you can get in the NHL. A #1 will have to come from within, or in an unexpected and positively monumental trade.

This is why Subban has the Canadiens over a barrel, or at least thinks he does. Thanks to Markov's magical exploding knees, Subban was the de-facto #1 for Montreal his first two NHL seasons... but Markov is back and prospect reinforcements are actually coming kinda-soonish for Montreal, which reasons are why Bergevin isn't caving to P.K.
Of course Bergevin also doesn't want his first major signing to be the next Scott Gomez disaster in Montreal, but if Subban was really a #1 as hyped the Canadiens wouldn't blink at locking him up long-term for around $6 million/yr would they? No, they'd be finding a way to make it work, no matter the impending cap dip. They are reported to be not even close to a deal, and that hasn't changed. This is not like Benn and the Stars where the sides continually got closer and everyone knew negotiations were progressing and remaining far from acrimonious.

For my money, Subban is a flashier slightly more skilled Alex Goligoski with attitude issues and monster cost. We all know the Stars are essentially forced to use Goligoski as a #1 when he should ideally be a skilled #3; Montreal has been in exactly this situation with Subban, only with the added enjoyment of dealing with an ego the size of the Bell Centre. I'm sure everyone in the Stars' locker room is fine with Benn making around $5 million/yr, but dropping Subban into that room making the same if not appreciably more? Welcome to open revolt, assuming Morrow doesn't just strangle him during a practice at some point.

So for at least $5 million a season, probably more like $6 million, you get the services of someone who assuming he retains #1 minutes is probably several years removed from appreciably out-scoring Goligoski - who makes $4 million/yr.
For at least 25% more cost than Goligoski, you get someone who quarterbacked the 28th ranked PP in the league last year, as opposed to the 30th.
You also get to see this primo-paid defenseman go to the box five times as often as Goligoski for the next couple years, with maybe that number dropping to four times as often as he matures (if he matures in that respect).

You're talking ~$17 million/yr tied up in 4 defensemen (Goligoski 4.6, Robidas 3.3, Daley 3.3, Subban conservatively 5.5), none of whom are a #1, two of whom probably shouldn't be #3s. That's 26% of the cap next year, and no they probably don't buy out Robidas in the summer. Maybe, but probably not. Yes he's playing too high up the depth chart but he fills a need for the Stars now and probably next year as well.

Goligoski is already overpaid for what he does, though not grossly so. Why would the Stars shell out bigger bucks for a disruptive presence who provides essentially the same benefits only with more downside? Downside that maybe diminishes to some degree in years to come - by which point he'll be a UFA and chasing the biggest contract number he can find, which probably won't be in Dallas. I would prefer not to see the Stars act as nursemaid to a wildly expensive hockey talent only for him to fly the coop as soon as he's learned how to straighten up and fly right.

Besides these issues, I don't see the Stars picking him up in any capacity simply because of his attitude - the Sean Avery situation essentially ousted Brett Hull all by itself (not that that was a big loss for the front office, but I'm just making a point - Nieuwendyk might be putting his job on the line in acquiring Subban).

Many of us were spoiled rotten by seeing what Zubov did on the Stars' blueline for years. The man was an absolute wizard with the puck; he was putting up ~50 point seasons as a defenseman during the height of the NHL's clutch-and-grab era on a defense-first Ken Hitchcock and later/briefly Dave Tippett team (oh and the 2-line pass was illegal). He put up 71 points in '05-06 as a 35 year old!
I mention this because, while Goligoski truly is not a #1 D, it sure seems like many of us fans expect too much of him when it comes to points production. 19 defensemen in the NHL scored 40+ points last season; only 43 scored 30 or more and Goligoski was one of them. 16 of those 43 were minus players; Goligoski was even. Duncan Keith potted 40 points - on a team with Chicago's offensive firepower. 30ish points as a top-3 D is respectable in the modern NHL.

Someone who actually has the mind, inclination, and patience for truly crunching deeper, more involved stats, feel free to disabuse me of my notions here. Really, I'd be happy to see my "hockey sense" (for what little that's worth) be trounced by numbers, and it might well be the case that I'm grossly under-valuing P.K. Subban. But from what I've personally seen of him, and what I hear/read from other fans who see more of him than I do, the hype out-strips the performance. Particularly so given the likely cost for the Stars to get that performance and the problems that come with him.

This is a user-created FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Defending Big D. FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable hockey and Dallas Stars fans.

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