P.K. Subban will be a healthy scratch once again today when Team Canada takes on Finland in the final Preliminary Round game of the Winter Olympics.
The reigning Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman, sat out the opening game against Norway, but was dressed when Canada defeated Austria 6-0. Subban played 11:41 in that game and was solid, yet unspectacular and may not get another chance in the tournament.
Coming into the Olympic Games, it was thought that Subban’s speed and skill made him a perfect candidate to play a huge role on the big ice in Sochi, Russia. However, it turns out the Canadian coaching contingent is more comfortable with defensive specialists Dan Hamhuis and Marc Edouard Vlasic in the lineup.
What has played against Subban in this tournament is the fact his offensive game is his strongest asset and Canada has received plenty of offense from the blue line without him. Right handed defenders Shea Weber and Drew Doughty have each scored a pair of goals and three points in the opening two games of the tournament.
Also not in his favor is that Mike Babcock has made it very clear he does not want a defenseman playing his off side.If Subban were to move to the left side, he would be well ahead of Jay Bouwmeester, Vlasic and Hamhuis. However, this is not an option, so circumstance has Subban on the outside watching the game today.
I can see why Doughty and Weber would be ahead of Subban on a depth chart. They bring size, skill, experience and are as good offensively as they are defensively. Then there is Alex Pietrangelo on the third pairing, but Canada refuses to split him and St. Louis Blue partner Bouwmeester so Subban can’t get into the top six at all.
I am not saying this makes sense, I am just pointing out what is going on. What makes the least sense of all however, is dressing Hamhuis as your seventh defender instead of P.K. Hamhuis is a shutdown defenseman with the Vancouver Canucks, but has struggled recently, and I can’t foresee a situation where he will be used in this tournament.
Even strength it is clear that Hamhuis is the 7th guy, probably 8th when Canada is on a power play, considering Patrick Sharp plays the point on the man advantage. When Canada is shorthanded, their top two pairings would be Duncan Keith with Weber and Vlasic with Doughty. Even Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo were used ahead of Hamhuis while down a man against Norway.
So why bother dressing him if he will never factor into the lineup?
Subban admittedly would not be used on this team in shorthanded situations. At even strength he could be trusted to play with anyone and we all know he needs no audition for the power play. Subban’s 39 points with the Montreal Canadiens this season places himahead of Weber and Doughty, and his 19 power play points are the most by any Canadian defenseman.
Where Subban would prove invaluable in this tournament is if Canada finds themselves down a goal in a third period. In this case there would be no time for Vlasic or Bouwmeester or Hamhuis, but a top four of Keith-Weber and then Subban-Doughty would create offensive chances on nearly every shift.
If they are down a goal late in a game and don’t want to use Subban, they still have an amazing top six that can shut down any team in this tournament, without a need for Hamhuis.
Maybe Canada’s coaching staff will come to their sense and get Subban into the lineup during the Medal Round. However, it looks right now that they have ignored overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and decided to go ahead without the defending Norris Trophy winner.