P.K. Subban (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
P.K. Subban is in need of a new contract, but that will happen sooner or later. Adam Proteau says the bigger question is whether they'll do the right thing – make him the 29th captain in Canadiens history.
The particulars of P.K. Subban’s looming contract extension aren’t known as of yet, but the inevitability of him putting his name on a new deal with the Canadiens is clear. The idea that anyone or anything – a rival GM with an ingenious restricted free agent offer sheet, or multi-picture movie deals from Hollywood producers – will take him out of the picture in Montreal is risible. Fans would revolt. Hell, ownership would revolt. He’s going to be back in a Habs jersey.
The Canadiens are going to commit to Subban contractually – but the real question is, are they going to commit to him fully and completely? There’s one way to say yes to that question: by making him the 29th captain in the team’s illustrious history.
As with any NHL star, Subban has his share of detractors and some would squawk at the notion of him being given the Habs’ captaincy. These are the same people who interpret his confidence as arrogance and his joy for the game as hot-dogging. They’re wrong in both cases, of course, and so is the idea Subban would be a disaster as the ‘C’-bearer.
Let’s break down the specific and specious arguments against Montreal making Subban their captain:
1) He’s too young. Subban is 25 and entering his fifth full NHL season. If you think that’s too young to get the captaincy, you need to tell Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, Carolina’s Eric Staal, Philly’s Claude Giroux and Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf, all of whom were named captain at the same age. You should also scold: the Blackhawks for making Jonathan Toews their captain at age 20; the Isles for giving the ‘C’ to John Tavares at age 22; the Kings for naming Dustin Brown captain at age 23; and the Lightning for giving the captaincy to Steven Stamkos at age 24.
The NHL is a young man’s league and Subban would fit right in with the NHL’s other young stars were he named captain now. Next:
2) He hasn’t accomplished anything and doesn’t have the respect of his teammates. This was true of Subban’s first couple years in the league, but as it stands today, he’s a Norris Trophy-winner who was one of the best players on a squad that made it to the Eastern Conference Final (and likely would’ve moved on to the Stanley Cup Final had it not lost its star goalie to injury). He’s a bona fide star who apprenticed the right way in the American League, and if his teammates can’t respect that reality, that’s on them, not Subban.
Besides, this mentality creates the false notion the captain of any NHL team does all the leading. It’s demonstrably untrue. The NHL's best captains have succeeded over the years in part because they were surrounded by teammates who were strong leaders. Subban would have those in Montreal. Next:
3) He’s immature. This might be the most preposterous of all the baseless accusations routinely tossed Subban’s way. Immature? Was the young man who deftly diffused the ugly racism situation that bubbled up in Boston this past spring immature? To ask the question is to answer it. Subban has shown himself fully willing and capable of handling high-pressure environments and predicaments.
Subban has responded and responded superbly to all challenges thrown his way. The captaincy could be the next challenge that motivates him to raise his contributions to a new level. And if there are any worries about Subban signing a short-term contract that takes him to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2016, wearing the ‘C’ should be seen as a way to help keep him around for the long term; giving him the honor can’t help but strengthen his ties to the organization and city.
The Canadiens can give the ‘C’ to a veteran such as Andrei Markov or a young forward (Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher) who’ll be a core member of the franchise for years to come. Any one of those three would be a decent-enough choice. But if they made Subban their captain, they’d be sending an unmistakable message: they believe in Subban as much, if not more than he believes in himself.
And they should. He’s absolutely ready for the next level of responsibility, even if some stubborn, small minds still can’t envision him receiving it.