The spotlight always finds P.K. Subban | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaThe spotlight always finds P.K. Subban

Posted: Saturday, November 30, 2013 | 03:42 PM

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P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on October 10, 2013 in Edmonton. (Derek Leung/Getty Images) P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on October 10, 2013 in Edmonton. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

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P.K. Subban is omnipresent in the news, a constant topic of discussion and debate. Whether it's the Olympic team, a contract year, his ice time or his Norris Trophy, life is always busy for this larger-than-life Montreal Canadiens defenceman.

All eyes will be on P.K. Subban when his Montreal Canadiens play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada. But aren't we always watching in a sense of what will this talented defenceman do next?

He's omnipresent in the news, a constant topic of discussion and debate. Take a look at the past nine days in the life of the larger-than-life Subban.

  • On Nov. 22 in Washington, Subban meets Wayne Gretzky for the first time. He asks No. 99 for advice he can use in his career. The Great One tells him simply to play his game and work hard. "When you hear that from a guy like Wayne Gretzky it's pretty flattering. I'll take that piece of my advice and put it in my back pocket," Subban told Hockey Night in Canada radio this week.
  • During the game, Gretzky is invited into the TSN broadcast booth. He is asked if Subban should be picked for the Canadian Olympic team. "I don't envy Stevie [Yzerman], it's a tough job right now for him, and it's a predicament that I'm sure he's nervous about because there are so many good players. But I hope P.K. makes the team, he's a good young man," Gretzky said.
  • The next evening at home against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Subban and his defence partner Andrei Markov, along with a strong game from veteran centre Tomas Plekanec, successfully shutdown Crosby in a 3-2 victory.
  • Last Monday, Canadian Olympic team head coach Mike Babcock was awarded a honourary doctorate of law from McGill University in Montreal. He was asked about Subban's chances of cracking the Olympic team roster.

"The great thing about playing on the Olympic team is you've got to be a 200-footer," Babcock said. "You've got to do it in both ends of the rink consistently and the coach has to trust you.

"What I mean by that is you don't put people on the ice you don't trust, so you have to be dependable. So that's the No. 1 priority. I mean, there's skating, elite hockey sense, but you've got to be a trustworthy player, whether you're a goaltender, a defenceman, a centre. That's what we told them at camp. I don't think it's different for anybody."

Therrien on the Subban bandwagon 

On Thursday, a day after Subban was knocked off the puck in his own end by Buffalo Sabres veteran Drew Stafford, a play that leads to the Sabres lone goal in Montreal's 3-1 win, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien has some positive remarks about his blue-chip blueliner. "The way he's playing right now Subban is making a case for the Olympics. We want him to go there," the coach said.

Why was this significant? Because earlier this year, Therrien refused to endorse his young star. The Canadiens coach has been criticized for not playing Subban more in general, specifically more late in games and more in penalty-killing situations alongside Markov.

There also was that 24CH episode last month in which Therrien rips Subban during an intermission for his defensive play. It opened eyes and opened the coach to criticism. But Subban was whether he was comfortable with the scene being aired and he was.

The 24-year-old Subban continues to work on his defensive game. He's better with a plus-eight plus-minus rating. He has reduced his giveaways. He has 22 in 26 games. His counterpart with the Ottawa Senators, Erik Karlsson, has a league-worst 41.

As the season has developed, Subban also has seen his ice time increase and more ice time late in games.

The penalty-killing situation is a different story. Clearly, Therrien doesn't feel Subban is ready for a regular man-short role just yet. He instead relies on Josh Gorges, Raphael Diaz, Markov and Douglas Murray.

It gives another aspect for Subban to work on. These are important times for the youngster. His contract expires next summer. It's an Olympic year. He's the reigning Norris Trophy winner. He's always in the spotlight with the Canadiens and their fervent faithful. Yet, he seems comfortable with how this pressure-packed season has evolved.

"I was a fan, too," he said. "I was the type of guy cursing the television when my favourite player didn't play well.

"People who say certain things about my game are not paying attention to my game."

And the Olympics? One of the problems for the right-shooting Subban being a shoo-in is the quality of D-men Canada has on the right side, a group that includes Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Brent Seabrook, Dan Boyle, Alex Pietrangelo and Kris Letang.

"It's everybody's dream to represent their country at some point of time at any level," Subban said. "But if you can do it at the Olympic level it's extra special. Obviously, like most of the Canadian players in the league, I'd love to have that opportunity to represent my country. But Wayne's right, there are tons of players to pick from. The reality is Canada is so good we could send two teams over."

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