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Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.
Norris Memorial Trophy winner P.K. Subban might seem like an odd choice to make this list, mainly for the reason stated at the very top of the sentence.
Indeed, with him having been named the league’s best defenseman this past season, it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype surrounding the 24-year-old. However, as stated in the very bottom of that last sentence, he’s just 24.
Forget the whole supposed maturity issue perpetuated primarily by the non-Montreal media that doesn’t watch him play regularly and by opponents whose skin Subban has gotten under. That’s part of Subban’s charm/skill set.
Sure, he attracts attention on and off the ice, but in a league in dire need of an injection of personality and on a team in dire need of toughness, Subban is a nice breath of fresh air. What him being only 24 does mean, though, is there’s room for growth.
It’s definitely a scary thought that Subban theoretically hasn’t yet reached his peak…scary, impressive and undeniable all at once. When one watches him play, it’s clear he has skill in droves. He also has flaws in his game, including an inherent lack of discipline, taking ill-timed, stupid penalties.
Next to the usual suspects in Brandon Prust (110) and Ryan White (67), no Hab accumulated more penalties in minutes last year (57). The next closest defenseman, Emelin, who never met an opponent he didn't like (bashing into the glass) had just 33.
Granted, Subban averaged 3.5 minutes per game more than Emelin (23:14 vs. 19:40), but, by the same token, both Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges each had more total ice time last year and neither had more than 15 PIM.
No one is disputing Subban’s talent or that the Norris was well-earned. When you put up nearly a point per game as a defenseman (38 points in 42 games), you deserve a lot of recognition, but Subban still has a lot to prove, even if only for the simple reason that this year is a contract one.
Oh, Subban will get the payday he sought last offseason, probably more of one in all honesty—no matter what happens this coming season. The Norris guaranteed him that much at least. But it didn’t guarantee much else, least of all a Hall of Fame career from here on out.
While he has the skills to earn one, it’s up to him to do just that and not remain complacent.