It seemed just a little too convenient.
Just as it happened in Montreal, things did not go the Predators’ way last year. They were out in the first round, and while they addressed their lack of true, frontline scoring by signing Matt Duchene, they didn’t address the fact that their goalie is 107-years-old. And they put the blame on the most noticeable, marketable, and loudest player in PK Subban. Sure, part of it was earmarking Subban’s cap hit for Duchene, but it was easy enough to claim he was declining to move him out again. Both in hockey and in the South, which just so happens to be the nexus Nashville sits on, the first call is to blame the black guy when things go wrong.
Hasn’t really helped the Predators much. But with Subban piling up only six points so far Nashville’s contention that he was slowing down is accepted by the majority of hockey viewers.
But is he? The answer isn’t quite as clear as most would think. Subban’s metrics are certainly down from his Predator days, but he’s on a much worse team. Subban’s relative Corsi and relative xG% are still ahead of the Devils’ rates. They’re not as high as his first season in Nashville or his last one, when he was supposedly dragging everyone down, but they’re still noticeably higher.
Moreover, Subban of last has been paired with Andy Greene, which is just about as exciting as someone named “Andy Greene” would be in your mind. When playing with Damon Severson earlier in the year, they were dominant possession-wise. This was one of the many things that John Hynes got wrong before getting canned and Alain Nasreddine hasn’t really fixed.
So why the point total plummet? Might have something to do with the Devils shooting 5% when he’s on the ice, the lowest any team Subban has been on has managed. That speaks to the complete lack of scoring talent that the Devils have, even less now with Taylor Hall off in the sun. Subban is still on the ice for just about the same amount of chances as he’s been, according to expected-goals-for per 60, but the Devils just don’t have the snipers to bury any of them.
The Devils power play has really hurt Subban as well, and that’s where his individual numbers have really taken a hit. He’s getting 75% of the shots he used to, as well as expected goals, and way less attempts. But is that him or what the Devils do on the power play? The Preds power play was terrible last year too but Subban still got his looks. Again, the Devils are shooting 3.8% when PK is on the ice ON THE POWER PLAY. That’s criminally, if not war crime bad. How much of that can you really put on Subban?
Meanwhile, in Music City Subban’s replacement Dante Fabbro is comfortably behind the team rates in those measures and has two more points. But he’s doing it a hell of a lot cheaper, and that was the idea the whole time. The Preds remain a decent-to-better metric team, so Subban’s absence hasn’t really cost them much on the ice. Still, it’s clear whatever the problems were also didn’t have much to do with him, given their standing just ahead of the Hawks.
Subban probably can’t completely change a team like he did before, and needs talent around him to really make him flourish. One has to ask if that will ever be in Newark. They’re going to need a lot more than just Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier to be something. Subban has two years left on his deal after this one at $9M per, but it’s going to be more than two years before the Devils are contenders again. If the Devils eat some salary will someone take a chance at the draft?
They probably should, because Subban has more to give yet despite what people say. He just needs a touch more help than he used to. But then, who doesn’t?