P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens shoots during warmup before NHL action against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre January 21, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
(January 20, 2012 - Source: Abelimages/Getty Images North America)

Even with a Norris Trophy, Subban has room for improvement


Nobody has ever questioned PK Subban’s ability to create offense. The 24-year-old defenseman was a prolific scorer in junior; however, his perceived defensive deficiencies hurt his draft stock, allowing the Canadiens to select him 43rd overall in 2007.

After Subban was awarded the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2013, that pick is looking awfully savvy.

This past season, after missing the first six games due to a contract dispute, Subban tallied 38 points, tying him with Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang for the scoring lead among defensemen.

Subban, Letang, and Minnesota’s Ryan Suter were subsequently named the three finalists for the Norris.

While Subban ended up with the most support from Norris voters (Professional Hockey Writers’ Association), it was an extremely close race between first and second — Subban finished with 66 first-place votes; Suter got 65.

Suter supporters pointed to his average ice time (27:16 to Subban’s 23:14) as well as all the time he spent killing penalties (102:14 to Subban’s 60:54).

In fact, there were 34 regular NHL d-men who logged more ice per game than Subban and 117 who spent more time killing penalties.

That said, most everyone will agree that Subban has become a more responsible defender, in addition to all he brings offensively.

“He’s a young defenseman who improves a lot,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said in May. “He’s only 23 years old. (He’s made) a nice progression. We like the way that he’s playing for us. He’s a lot more dependable that he was a few years ago, and that’s a good sign.”

Upon winning the Norris, Subban said getting honored at such a young age was “all the more reason for me to continue to get better, to continue to be a leader and develop both as a player and as a person.”

With another contract negotiation looming, how he performs in 2013-14 — after which he can become a restricted free agent — will be worth watching.

More Montreal Canadiens day on PHT:

Five Habs to watch in 2013-14

Habs need bounceback from Price

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”