So what now for P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens?

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A lot of times, a savvy coach will pick the right time to use a healthy scratch to motivate a player by making him watch a game from the press box. This is an especially useful tactic with young players, particularly ones who might lack some perspective after jumping quickly to the NHL level.

Yet when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens and their talented (but some might say difficult) rookie P.K. Subban, some wonder if that lecture is dragging on a bit too long.

Canadiens coach Jacques Martin decided to make Subban a healthy scratch for the last three games, which would seem stunning out of context. Of course, the reason that Martin isn’t crazy for his stance is pretty simple: the Habs won all three of those contests without Subban.

Still, at some point, Subban is going to return. After all, Montreal fans were clamoring for his presence during a power play in the team’s last game (chanting “Peekay Peekay” according to All Habs.net).

(That’s not to say Subban has been an offensive machine, though, as his one goal and eight assists for nine points in 25 games is far from world-beating.)

Rick Stephens of All Habs considers who might need to go to make room for Subban, noting that it wouldn’t necessarily need to be a “one-size fits all” solution.

It would be a mistake to view the spot in the line-up as a competition between [Yannick] Weber and Subban. Yet, some will insist. Martin has even compared situation to Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak last season.

Some will incorrectly view the result as a success. In truth, as conceived by Martin, it is an archaic, destructive method of coaching which inevitably produces a casualty. A more progressive mind should be able to produce a win-win environment.

Picard seems to be the odd man out. He has mostly played above expectations but still suffers coverage lapses and offers little when the Canadiens have the man advantage. While he has filled in admirably, Picard is the logical candidate to head to the press box.

It is also an opportunity for coach Martin to use the defensive depth to provide an occasional day off for his veteran defenders. If framed properly, it could be positive not punitive and would ensure that players like Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill and Roman Hamrlik are paced for the long season.

Stephens’ idea to occasionally spell Spacek, Gill and Hamrlik is especially interesting. The Canadiens have been hit hard by injuries at times on their blueline, particularly to seemingly doomed offensive defenseman Andrei Markov. Gill and Hamrlik bring a veteran presence that is even more valuable once the team enters the tighter checking playoffs, so the team might be wise to keep them as fresh as possible.

Subban is a promising young player, but the problem is that he’s also keenly aware of that promise. It’ll be interesting to see if the blue chip blueliner will react well to this attempted injection of humility … whenever he gets the chance to come back, that is.

McLellan excited about addition of ‘utility player’ Strome

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To hear Todd McLellan explain it, Ryan Strome could be wearing many hats next season.

That’s what the Oilers head coach said on Wednesday of the former Isles forward, acquired earlier this summer in the Jordan Eberle trade. McLellan expressed excitement over Strome’s ability to play both center and wing.

“He (Strome) is a utility player,” McLellan said, per the Sun. “He has the ability to play center and has in the past. He’s been able to win faceoffs and he’s comfortable on the wing. We have the luxury of moving players around, and as the fans here know, we like to do that.”

That last sentence is clearly a reference to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has flipped back and forth between playing as Edmonton’s No. 2 center and as a winger on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. The talented German’s had success at both, which is why Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is still unsure if Draisaitl is a center or a winger.

More: Strome pumped at prospect of playing with Draisaitl, McDavid

As for Strome, he certainly gives Edmonton some flexibility — on the ice, and on the books.

With a $2.5 million cap hit (compared to Eberle’s $6M), he’s provided Chiarelli with more cap space to get the Draisaitl contract done. And there’s also the potential for him to be a real bargain. Remember, Strome is only two years removed from a sophomore campaign in which he scored 17 goals and 50 points in 81 contests. His subsequent two years with the Isles were a disappointment, but the talent is still there.

The wildcard in all this is the fact that Strome’s heading into a contract year. He’ll be a restricted free agent next July, so the ’17-18 campaign will go a long way in determining his value… and, potentially, his future in Edmonton.

McDavid disappointed at NHL decision to skip Olympics

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TORONTO (AP) Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said he’s disappointed the NHL won’t be sending players to the Winter Olympic in South Korea.

“It would have been a special group, and you’re just hopeful to be a part of it,” McDavid told reporters at a charity event Wednesday. “It’s disappointing, but that’s the way it is. You want to be able to represent your country on the highest stage, and the Olympics is obviously the highest stage possible.”

McDavid’s comments came a day after Hockey Canada announced it was looking for non-NHL talent for Canada’s roster in Pyeongchang.

Sean Burke, the team’s GM, said Tuesday the bulk of Canada’s team will come from players based in Europe.

The NHL’s reasons not to participate in the upcoming Games include disagreements over costs as well as problems accommodating the Games during its regular season.

When asked whether there was the possibility of getting permission from the Oilers to attend the Olympics, McDavid was non-committal.

“I’m not too involved in all that stuff,” he said.

The NHL Players Association has said the league’s decision is “short-sighted.”

The NHL allowed its players to compete in every Olympics since 1998 Nagano Games, and Canada was won three of the last four gold medals.

Markov, Habs officially part ways

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Andrei Markov‘s run of 17 consecutive seasons in Montreal is over.

On Thursday, the Habs announced that Markov — who’s played all 990 of his career NHL contests with the Canadiens — wouldn’t be brought back for the 2017-18 campaign.

The news comes after months of rumblings about Markov’s contractual status. It was initially believed the 38-year-old UFA was looking for $12 million over two years, and there was a brief flirtation with the Flyers (which, it later turned out, was simply Markov’s interest in going to Philly, not the Flyers actively pursuing him).

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin stated on several occasions he wanted to bring Markov back, but only at the right price and term. That’s because Bergevin knew Markov still played an important role — despite appearing in just 62 games last year, the Russian rearguard was offensively productive, with six goals and 36 points, and averaged nearly 22 minutes per night.

That said, Bergevin also knew the financial realities. He dished out big bucks this offseason — a combined $154.8 million for Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk and Karl Alzner — and just didn’t have the money left to give Markov a big ticket.

Instead, Bergevin played it conservative in rounding out his defense, which included Tuesday’s one-year, $700,000 deal for Mark Streit. Some saw that deal as the writing on the wall for Markov in Montreal.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where Markov ends up. If he lowers his asking price, there’s no doubt an NHL team would be interested. If he doesn’t, he could angle for a KHL deal and the opportunity to represent Russia in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Malkin wants to see Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup

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Evgeni Malkin‘s career is far from over, but he’s already accomplished so much.

The 30-year-old has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies and a Calder Trophy.

Fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin has also won a number of individual awards, but he hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes team awards and playoff success.

There always seemed to be a rivalry between the two Russian forwards, but that doesn’t mean Malkin isn’t rooting for Ovechkin to take home a championship before his career is over.

“I was a bit luckier than (Ovechkin), that’s why I won those cups,” Malkin said, per Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko. “He has everything ahead of him. I wish him to win the cup.”

How do Penguins fans feel about that?

Malkin was also one of the more controversial omissions on the NHL’s “Top 100 Players” list. The Pens forward was disappointed about being left off the list, but hoisting Lord Stanley again seems to have erased that sting.

“I was a little bit disappointed when I wasn’t included in the list of 100 greatest players,” added Malkin. “But I won the cup and am happy.”