CALGARY -- Don't count Bob Gainey among critics who see Montreal Canadiens' rookie P.K. Subban as being too brash and too bold for his own good or that of the game of hockey.
Gainey, now a special adviser to GM Pierre Gauthier with the Canadiens, didn't hedge when he asked what he thinks about Subban before he stepped behind the bench to coach Montreal's alumni team against the Calgary Flames at McMahon Stadium Saturday.
"He's an excellent player. He's a very talented player," Gainey said of Subban. "Anyone who has met him knows his personality is outgoing, overflowing.
"It hasn't yet been tempered, yet, with full maturity. I think he should have fun and he should play. Some of those people should shut up and play against him. Just keep their mouths shut and play.
"He doesn't have a big, tough guy playing beside him to look after him. He looks after himself. Not everybody else in the League who is an outgoing, above-average player plays in that position."
Earlier this season, Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers criticized the 21-year-old Subban for being cocky and not showing what he considered a suitable level of respect to veteran players
"I think Montreal is lucky to have him, the NHL is lucky to have him," Gainey said. "He's going to be a good player, a better than good player, for a long time."
Gainey, a past captain of the Canadiens, was asked if he'd feel the need to pull Subban aside if we was still team captain.
"I'm sure he gets lots of information from lots of places," Gainey said. "But, really, he's a 21-year-old young man is doing what he wants to do and he does it well. He does it extremely well.
"He's difficult to play against. He's the kind of player on a team you play against that you have to be conscious of him and you know he can hurt you."
Gainey has seen talented and confident kids like Subban come along and rattle some cages before. It's nothing new.
"One player who came into our team at one point and had an impact like that, a huge impact, was Chris Chelios," he said. "He had a huge impact on our team in the 1980s.
"He went on to become an all-star, a Norris Trophy player who led his team to Stanley Cups."
I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.
— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh