EDMONTON, CANADA – MARCH 17: Magnus Paajarvi #91 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Phoenix Coyotes on March 17, 2011 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
If you follow P.K. Subban on social media then you’re aware that he’s kept up a pretty busy off-season. He hung out with LeBron James at the NBA playoffs, took a Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports class at Harvard University with fellow athletes Kaka, Lindsey Vonn and Zdeno Chara, worked as a commentator for NBC Sports during the Stanley Cup Final, met up with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, spent time in Las Vegas for the NHL Awards, posed for the cover of Sports Illustrated and traveled around Europe.
Oh, and he did a media tour after being named the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 19 video game.
It’s been a busy summer for Subban, but that’s just how the Nashville Predators defenseman likes it.
“I just do my thing. I don’t really know what a low-key off-season. I just do my own thing,” he told Pro Hockey Talk recently. “I don’t ever go into an off-season being like Oh, I’m going to do this or do this. I share a lot of my off-season on social media, so people can be in-tune with what I’m doing. But that’s for your fans, right? They want to know what you’re doing. They want to know what you’re up to, so I share all my stuff on social media.
“I don’t share it so that TSN or NBC or ESPN picks it up, but they do, and people love to talk about what I’m doing in my off-season. It’s great and so far it’s been a very, very enjoyable one.”
We caught up with Subban recently to talk about (allegedly) cheating at video games while playing against his brothers, the state of the NHL and more.
PHT: What made you want to participate in the class at Harvard this summer?
SUBBAN: “First of all, you have to have the time to do it and this was an off-season where I had the time to be able to go and take the course. It’s been mentioned to me a few times by other athletes and other people in the business and entertainment worlds that this would be a great course for you to take if you’re interested in wanting to learn more about business, sports and entertainment. It was something I had on my radar but was hoping I wasn’t able to do it until the end of my career, meaning that I’d be in long playoff runs every year. But this year our playoff run ended a little shorter and I had time to register for the class. I did it late and am very thankful that they allowed me to still be in it. It was a great experience; I learned a lot. And it was fun to be around other successful people in their line of work.”
PHT: How jealous are [your brothers] Malcolm and Jordan of you having the NHL 19 cover?
SUBBAN: “I don’t know about them being jealous. I think they’re very happy and they’re very supportive of me being on the cover. I know they love to play video games, probably a little bit more than I do, but I know that for them it’s probably a little surreal just like it is for me. I still have to pinch myself every now and then when I see the cover. It is a pretty cool honor to do that. I know that they’re very excited to see me on the cover and hopefully one day they’ll both get their opportunity to be on the cover of the EA Sports game. It’s not an easy thing to do but I think for them that’s definitely a goal in their minds is to one day be on the cover and I think that’s well in their crosshairs to accomplish it, for sure.”
PHT: The NHL posted a video last month of Malcolm talking about how you were a bit of a cheater when you guys played video games growing up — something about using your toe to reset the console. True?
SUBBAN: “Well, first of all let’s put this out here — it’s all alleged, right? There’s no video proof. Everything’s alleged as far as I’m concerned. I’m in no position to confirm or deny anything, really. I don’t have to. But I will say this — if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, I guess, when it comes to video games. Put it this way — I do whatever it takes to win when it comes to my brothers and video games and I always won. That’s all the information we need to know is who won it for the day. Nobody wants to know how it happened, just know the result.”
PHT: Who are the big gamers on the Predators?
SUBBAN: “Tony Bitetto’s a big gamer. [Roman] Josi plays video games. He thinks he’s really good at it but he’s mediocre. Ryan Hartman’s in; Nick Bonino’s really good, kind of a smart guy in terms of hockey and it translates well to video games; Yannick Weber plays a little bit. Ryan Ellis is like an undercover gamer. I didn’t really know how good he was until towards the end of the year when guys were telling me… Kevin Fiala, another guy who thinks he’s unreal at video games but he really isn’t. Filip Forsberg’s good.
“We’re a tight group. I’m not even a big video game guy, but because I love my teammates so much I’ll get involved whenever they ask me. I think they just like the theatrics on the headphones that I bring to our group game nights. I think they like it when I’m yelling and screaming when I’m dying [in Fortnite].”
PHT: Since your video game cheating history is alleged, who are the biggest sore losers on the Predators when it comes to gaming?
SUBBAN: “Nobody really gets too rattled about it. I think when we play cards guys get a little bit more upset. But in video games guys don’t really get rattled. It’s pretty fun. It’s like little bragging rights but video games is just to kill time for us on those long plane rides for us when you don’t want to read or play cards anymore. We’re a pretty chill group when it comes to that.”
PHT: NHL 19 has a mode where users can play some pond hockey. Give me your best story playing outside with your brothers growing up?
SUBBAN: “Just playing on the backyard rink, not so much a pond, but our backyard rink that my dad used to put in every winter. Malcolm would always been the one to go in net, so it’s fitting that he transitioned to a goaltender. But he would be the one always willing to go in net and Jordan and I would be playing against him and it would like pass-and-play and we’d try to fool Malcolm. He was pretty good back then and obviously he’s really good now being a full-time NHLer now.”
PHT: The game also has over 200 NHL legends in it. I’m giving you the chance to be reincarnated to come back as a current or former player. Who are you choosing?
SUBBAN: “That’s a great question but it really comes down to two players. Anyone who picks anyone other than Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr… Maybe as a defenseman I’d probably come back as Bobby Orr, but when you think about it Wayne Gretzky being probably the best player of all-time, I guess you’d probably want to come back as him… There hasn’t been a player to do it like he has. So definitely would take Wayne.”
PHT: Finally, I’m granting you power to be NHL commissioner. What would you change about the game as it is today?
SUBBAN: “I think we make changes as we go. I don’t necessarily think that we need to change a lot of things about our game. If you look at our game, the NHL, compared to other pro sports, we’re probably the only sport right now that’s on the up and up consistently from year to year. We’ve continued to grow, maybe not at the pace in terms of revenue from what the other sports are going.
“Maybe that doesn’t please everybody but we are continuing to grow and I think that hockey has so much room for growth. That’s the exciting thing about the NHL and where it’s at now is that I don’t even think the NHL’s tapped into how they can compete with the other professional sports. I’m very excited to be a part of the NHL and be a part of that growth.
“The changes that are going to come are going to come organically. I don’t think there’s anything that pops out in my mind like Oh, my God we’ve got to change this. I think the game’s exciting and it’s continuing to get better every year. Fans are enjoying it, that’s why they continue to show up and that’s why we’re able to put teams in markets like Las Vegas and there’s rumors of other markets that may be coming in. The interest wouldn’t be there unless the game wasn’t continuing to trend in the right direction.
“I’m satisfied with where it’s at now but I’m also very optimistic and excited about the future and where the game can be in five, 10, 15, 20 years. It’s all good.”
It’s been a year of firsts for Alex Ovechkin.
His first Stanley Cup (and the Washington Capitals first Stanley Cup) and his first Conn Smythe Trophy were major accomplishments that one of the league’s all-time greats had yet to accomplish before the beginning of June.
But up until Wednesday night, no NHL player had ever been handed the ESPY for Best Male Athlete.
And so when Alex Ovechkin’s name was pulled out of the envelope, he added another first to his incredible year.
Ovechkin beat out the likes of Houston Astros first baseman Jose Altuve, who was instrumental in his teams’ World Series win, Houston Rockets guard James Harden and five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
He wasn’t on-hand to accept the award as he was back home with his wife Nastya, who is about to bring the couple’s first child into the world.
Ovechkin’s season was special even before the Stanley Cup win, scoring 49 times to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the seventh time and reached the 600-goal milestone to become only the 20th player in NHL history to hit the mark. He also played in his 1,000th NHL game on April 1.
Ovechkin also took home the ESPY for Best NHL Player, which wasn’t a surprise given his year.
Hockey’s good night at the ESPY’s continued with the United States women’s ice hockey team winning the ESPY for Best Game after their 3-2 shootout triumph over Team Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The Americans trailed 2-1 in the third period before Monique Lamoureux-Morando’s breakaway goal forced overtime and the eventual shootout, where twin sister Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the winner in the sixth round to seal gold.
The win was sweet revenge for the American team, who had come up short against the Canadians in recent Olympics.
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at email@example.com.
• We’ve had a litany of storylines thus far this summer, but here’s a list of 11 that have yet to play out. (Sportsnet)
• The Minnesota Wild may start looking at their stable of youth to help the team on the ice this season. (NHL.com)
• Looking for an NHL team on Forbes’ new list of the top 50 richest sporting franchises in the world? Hint: You won’t find one. (Sportsnet)
• Every summer, some of the contracts teams extend to free agents are worrisome. Here’s a few of those from this summer. (Yahoo Sports Canada)
• After the latest developments in a Minnesota courtroom, what is next in the concussion lawsuit against the NHL? (The Athletic)
• National Tattoo Day in Canada meant a celebration of inking for Montreal Canadiens fans. (Montreal Gazette)
• Here’s a list of five NHL players primed for comeback seasons in 2018-19. (FanSided)
• The latest NHL concussion ruling likely means the splintering of cases across several jurisdictions. (Business Insurance)
• A wishlist for NHL 19. (The Sports Daily)
• Are the Vancouver Canucks following in the footsteps of the Winnipeg Jets? (The Canuck Way)
• These guys haven’t hit the ice, nor made their respective team’s opening night roster. But here’s the top Calder candidates for next season. (The Grueling Truth)
• New chest pad regulations for NHL goaltenders are already surrounded in injury controversy. (The Comeback)
What kind of price to put on grit, agitation, intimidation?
In the NHL, it’s something of a Rorschach Test for GMs. It’s easier to gauge the value of elite players and middle-of-the-pack guys when scoring is their calling card, but when it comes to “intangibles,” prices can vary.
Even with that in mind, Tom Wilson stands as a tricky test case.
You can tie yourself in knots examining the agitating winger, especially if you’re a Washington Capitals fan nervously hoping that the RFA signs a deal soon. Relief won’t come from the latest update, either; the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan reports that Wilson’s agent Mark Guy said that the two sides aren’t “done or close.”
Khurshudyan provides some interesting ranges for a possible contract: Guy told her that a new deal could be “north of four years,” while Washington also indicated a preference for a long-term agreement. The salary cap could fall somewhere in the $3.5-$4.5 million range, according to Khurshudyan.
With Wilson (probably wisely) opting against salary arbitration, it’s a lot tougher to guess when something will formulate.
But, hey, that gives hockey people plenty of time to bicker about his value. Back when Wilson was suspended during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert summarized the debate regarding the 24-year-old’s value.
” … He is more accurately described a middle-six forward who has been thrust into a bigger role because Barry Trotz is trying to spread the offense across the first two lines more evenly. A lot is made of the fact that Wilson finished with 32 points at 5-on-5 this season, because that was fourth on the Capitals behind only Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, and Nick Backstrom. But look at the guys who had that many 5-on-5 points this year: Alex DeBrincat, Dustin Brown, Gabe Landeskog, Gus Nyquist, Josh Bailey, Kevin Fiala, and Vince Trocheck. These are guys for whom a pretty reasonable evaluation is “They’re mostly pretty good,” but not much more than that, and with the exception of Landeskog and Brown, none of them played with guys who, like Ovechkin, were legit MVP candidates.
The remarkable thing about Wilson is that various debates can swing both ways.
From an “intangibles” perspective, you could argue that he can be something of a poor man’s Todd Bertuzzi, “opening up space” for forwards such as Alex Ovechkin, and maybe get opponents off their game with a violent hit or a fight. Conversely, someone could argue that his tendency to take penalties could put his team in a bad position, or perhaps that players looking to deliver crushing checks may find themselves out of position.
The pure numbers get more complicated as you burrow deeper.
On one hand, his career-high came this season, with a modest 14 goals and 35 points. While he rode shotgun with Ovechkin for significant chunks of time, he also didn’t get a lot of reps on the Capitals’ deadly power play.
Wilson’s possession stats were pretty good for a player of his style … yet again, that sometimes came with high-end players, and he also enjoyed some cushy offensive zone starts in some cases, too.
Still, a guy who can score a bit, hit a lot, and kill a ton of penalties brings quite a bit of value. As a former first-rounder (16th overall in 2012), few would doubt that the Caps hold Wilson in high regard.
The Capitals also boast a pretty robust $8.26M in cap space, according to Cap Friendly, so even though they’ve been prudent when it comes to bringing back members of their championship squad, they’d struggle to say that they can’t afford to pay Wilson at full value.
Is your head spinning yet? That would be understandable, and maybe that explains why contract negotiations seem stilted. What kind of deal would make sense for Wilson?