In a recent Richard Cloutier blog surprisingly void of Eric Belanger insults, a trade scenario was presented in which the Oilers and the Habs would swap two stars straight-up. Subban for Yakupov in a pure 1-for-1 hockey deal. I just thought I woud weigh in to the conversation with my thoughts on a deal that could rock the hockey world.
I have long been an advocate of the Canadiens retaining Subban and his services, as he is a premier young defender who has already improved his all-around game in his short NHL career. I think that he is our best two-way defender who plays a good, but not yet great game. Subban adds character, charisma and flare to the Habs, and has already proven to be clutch in desperate situations. (To all those skeptical or unconvinced watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tji8vEySkF8
) So why even consider trading a player so essential to a defensive system that needs help?
Because Nail Yakupov is Nail Yakupov. He's a first-overall pick whose offensive talents are on par with Kanye West's ego. Over his last two OHL seasons, he's scored 80 goals and 170 points in 107 games. Translate those stats to the NHL, and we're looking at a guy scoring 61 goals and 130 points in a single, healthy, albeit fairly unrealistic, season. While major junior hockey can produce favourable offensive stats, he's still projected to be a dynamic, home-run, first-line player who will be able to produce 30-40 goals and 70-80 points while potentially playing with the Habs' first-line center of the future and past Sarnia Sting teammate Alex Galchenyuk. Those types of players are rare to come by, and as a GM you usually add one at any cost.
So what's more valuable to a team? A great defender, who can produce offensively while playing responsible, calculated defensive hockey? Or an elite forward who plays with a fiery passion and is a threat to score each time he's on the ice? Right now, I would have to say the defenseman. Looking league-wide, almost every NHL team has at least one or two very good first-line forwards who consistently produce points. There aren't as many D who maintain a high-level of efficient play season after season. If you look at teams that are successful though, there's always at least one defenseman like that. LA has Doughty, Boston has Chara, Chicago has Keith. When the Habs next reach excellence (hell after last season I'd accept mediocrity), they'll do so thanks to a franchise defenseman. Subban, in my mind, is that guy. He'll be the type of player who can take a team and a city on his back at any time and push them over the edge. He'll be the reason for winning streaks, and a way to end losing ones. He'll lead the team with intelligent, efficient and passionate play. You never trade those guys away. So I would say that unless Edmonton offers the moon, you don't move Subban. It's as simple as that.