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Disconnect between Canadiens' Therrien, Subban

Interpretations of turnover in Montreal loss to Colorado still vary

by Arpon Basu / Managing Editor,

NHL Tonight: P.K. Subban benching

Controversy surrounding P.K. Subban benching

The NHL Tonight crew discusses the the controversy surrounding Michel Therrien and P.K. Subban

  • 07:07 •

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Michel Therrien feels P.K. Subban will learn from it. 

Subban doesn't feel there's anything to learn.

If there were a way to summarize the disconnect between the Montreal Canadiens coach and his top defenseman and leading scorer, that would be it. 

They don't appear to see the game the same way. 

It was true Wednesday in Denver, when Therrien blamed Subban for a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche after his offensive-zone turnover led to the winning goal late in the game. 

It remained true Friday, when Therrien and Subban were each asked about the play again, and each had his own version of what happened. 

The one thing Therrien and Subban agreed on was their relationship is fine, but the way they responded to the play, which has been dissected and analyzed in Montreal since Wednesday, suggests this is a situation that could repeat itself in the future. 

"We want our players to be really active, we want our players to make plays, we want our players to be really aggressive, we want our players to make smart decisions," Therrien said. "That's part of the learning process. But there's a time and place. Game 7 with two minutes left, same situation, or [if] you play for the gold medal, you've got to make sure you make the right play at the right time.

Video: P.K. Subban offers up an explanation

"P.K.'s a smart player, a smart guy, and when he's going to be in that position again, I'm sure he's going to learn from it." 

The play began at the Avalanche blue line with just over two minutes left in a 2-2 game. Subban got the puck at the right point and instead of dumping it back behind the net, decided to bring the puck to open ice on the left side with Avalanche forward Mikhail Grigorenko in pursuit. 

Grigorenko stripped Subban of the puck just as he was falling, and the Avalanche broke toward the Canadiens end and scored the winning goal. 

Despite the fact the Avalanche entered the Canadiens zone in a 3-on-3 situation, and that Therrien admitted Friday they blew the coverage on that play, he still maintained Subban was at fault. 

Subban disagrees. 

"You want to play the clock and you want to understand the timing of the game," Subban said. "In that particular situation I didn't see it as a high-risk play because I had full possession of the puck. I was in a strong position, I wasn't in a weak position. If I don't lose my edge there, I probably bump the guy and put it down the wall. But I lost my edge." 

It was remarkably similar to the response Subban gave Wednesday after the game. So it's clear his opinion hasn't changed, and neither has Therrien's. It is a difference of opinion that has come up before during Therrien's tenure as Canadiens coach, which began in 2012. Which begs the question: Are Therrien and Subban compatible? 

"I have a very good relationship with P.K," Therrien said. "The guy's adorable. He wants everyone to do well. He always comes to the rink upbeat. It's not a problem, it's the opposite. We want guys who have some emotion. It's fun working with him, but you have to guide him." 

Subban has made several adjustments to his game over the past four years under Therrien, but the play Wednesday was an example of why Subban excels. His ability to create plays out of nothing is what sets him apart, and though he has toned down the frequency of how often he tries such plays, he would not be the same player if he removed them entirely from his repertoire. 

And it doesn't sound as if that's something he plans to do. 

"I haven't really seen it," Subban said when asked if he has reviewed the play in question. "To me, the way I look at it is I probably made that play 1,000 times already this season, and other times it's resulted in the puck in the back of the other team's net. So I'm not going to look over at that play again, because I know what happened." 

Subban spoke Friday of lessons he has learned from athletes in other sports, such as basketball players Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and how they taught him it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. It's something Subban has adopted into his own way of looking at the game, and something he sees as beneficial to the Canadiens. 

"I think I'm part of the answers, not the problem," Subban said. "I look at my situation as I'm a part of the solution, and I want to be a part of the solution of helping our team be successful and helping our team make the playoffs. That's the way I approach it. If anybody questions that, the only people that really matter are my coach and [Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin], and if they don't think I'm a part of the solution. For me, I feel like I can be a part of it, I want to be." 

The Canadiens undoubtedly want Subban to be part of the solution as well. The question is whether they share the same view of what the problem is.

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