So, Jacques Martin has decided to bench P.K. Subban, boy wonder, for having a bad game last night, and half the Habs fans with opinions are cursing him for hurting Subban's confidence and ruining a fine young player.
That's ridiculous. Martin is building a player here, not wrecking one. There's no doubt P.K.'s got the skills to be a fine NHL player, even a true star, for many years. There's more to being a star than just skill, however. A young player who's thrust into the limelight in a city as adoring as Montreal risks getting a fat head and forgetting why people loved him in the first place.
I don't believe P.K.Subban is arrogant or has an overly well-exercised ego. I think he consciously tries to remember his responsibility to act like a professional and keep his priorities straight. That's off the ice. On the ice, there's a fine line between supreme confidence in one's ability and arrogance. If Subban is given a starter's job with big responsibility and little in the way of restraint, it will be almost impossible for him to keep a rookie's humility; the kind of humility a player needs to remain open to learning.
Every player needs to know he's part of a team, and no matter how big his skill, he's replaceable. If he starts thinking things revolve around him, he loses sight of the team's goals and takes too much on himself. It happened to Carey Price in the first couple of years of his career, when he was handed a big, important role on the team, and he started thinking like a guy who knew more than he actually did. It took a hard crash for him to realize instant stardom still requires hard work.
Jacques Martin is benching Subban because the kid had a bad game last night, and needs to know he's not yet so secure that he can play like that with impunity. It's true he didn't play as poorly as some of the veterans, but he's at a different place in his career than they are. He's particularly vulnerable to thinking he's the king of the world, and it's up to the coach to make sure that doesn't happen. This is part of any rookie's learning curve, and P.K.Subban, for all his talent, is still just a rookie.
The move may hurt the team tonight because Subban's better than Yannick Weber. In the long run, though, the hope is that it teaches a lesson the kid needs to learn to be a better player later. Kudos to the coach for having balls enough to teach it when everyone is yelling and telling him he's wrong.