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Thriving under pressure

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Much was expected of P.K. Subban this past season. He didn't disappoint.

When Subban signed the most lucrative contract ever given to a player in Canadiens history last August, he knew that people would be paying particularly close attention to his performance in 2014-15, even more so than they had in his four previous seasons in Montreal. The fact that he’d returned from Sochi with a gold medal around his neck or that he’d been the Canadiens’ top point-getter during the 2014 playoffs didn’t absolve him of his obligation to deliver on his new deal. Subban needed to produce and be among the team’s standouts night after night. And, in addition to all that, the Toronto native was selected as one of four players who would sport an “A” on his jersey while awaiting the nomination of a new captain.

The talented rearguard certainly wasn’t overwhelmed by all of his new responsibilities, seizing the opportunity to sign an eight-year deal to remain with the CH for the foreseeable future. Longing to become the kind of player his teammates could count on, Subban successfully achieved his objective, refusing to let anything get in his way during the most recent campaign.

“I didn’t really feel pressure from signing the contract. I think I worked hard, just like everybody else who signs a deal. You work hard and if you’re rewarded for it, then you’re happy,” offered Subban, who finished the regular season ranked second on the team with 60 points before adding a team-leading eight points in 12 playoff games. “I’ve worked hard since I’ve been in the league and I was rewarded for it by the organization. The way I saw it was come September, I had to do my job. It’s going to be the same thing next September.”

If the numbers Subban put up over the first few months of the regular season weren’t necessarily as strong as they’d been in previous years, the former second-round pick demonstrated once again that betting against him was a big mistake. Finishing in the Top 10 among defensemen in several offensive categories come season’s end, Subban also proved to be a force on the defensive side of things, too, going from a minus-4 differential in 2013-14 to a plus-21 differential this year. It’s that ability to steadily become a complete player – not just a specialist on offense – that made him a part of the Norris Trophy conversation, earning his second career nomination for the prestigious award in late April.

“At the beginning of the season, I think a lot of people said that I wasn’t scoring enough and I wasn’t picking up enough points. There are a lot of excellent defensemen in the league, and some of them who are considered as the best aren’t leading the league in goals and points. The way I was playing at the beginning of the year is the way I wanted to play, being solid at both ends of the ice. I could cheat on plays to pick up more points, but I won’t do that to the detriment of my team and my goalie,” stressed Subban, who ranked sixth in the NHL by logging an average of 26:12 of ice time per game. “From an individual standpoint, I’m happy with the season I had. The two numbers I focus on are my production offensively – 60 points – and the fact that I was a plus-21. I don’t think that I could ask for better than that, being responsible all over the ice. I don’t know how they go about choosing the winner of the Norris Trophy, and I don’t know how they chose the winner the last time I won it, but I feel that I had a good year, whether I win it or not.”

Season Recap: Subban

While we don't yet know if Subban will add another Norris Trophy to his collection, the Subban name will undoubtedly be a big part of the conversation when it comes to discussing the candidates to become the 29th captain in Canadiens history. The fact that Michel Therrien’s troops didn’t have a captain in 2014-15 didn’t hurt their cause, though, affording new voices to be heard while several veterans left the fold and moved on with their respective careers. While Subban would be honoured to be given the title, he believes that it’s every player’s responsibility to contribute on the leadership front if the team is going to win it all down the road.

“Being selected as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens would be special and different than being named captain of any other team. Just the fact that I’m a part of the leadership group with other big players that have worn a letter on this jersey is something special. This type of situation isn’t something you take lightly. You’re just not given a letter like this in Montreal,” concluded Subban, who celebrated his 26th birthday in May. “This year, our biggest strength is the fact that we had many leaders who stepped up throughout the season. That’s how you become a first place team in our division and a top team in the league. It’s not a handful of players; it’s on the whole team. We have a lot of young leaders on our team, guys that we lean on, and it helps to have guys with experience to help out. They supported us very well. We’ve had a lot of leadership in our dressing room this year and it’s important to have going into next year, as well.”

Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

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