In the Analytics mailbag last week, I mentioned that I had a lot of questions about P.K. Subban. It's probably a little luck for Subban that he was in a smaller market like New Jersey this season, because outside of Montreal Canadiens fans who either still love him or want to relit the trade that sent him to Nashville , there wasn't too much attention to a catastrophic season for him.
I mentioned Subban's season in early December in an article about the players who had the most bad luck at the time of the season, and it is true that a large part of the struck Subban numbers at surface level were on ice more than individual performance, but that doesn't mean that nothing was wrong.
To see what has changed, if anything, in Subban's game, let's look at the broad strokes and compare him with his peers in league ranks, expressed as percentiles. If you are not familiar, it means that a player who is in the 99th percentile in a certain statistic is below the top percent of all players in his position in that statistic.
With SPORTLOGiQ data we can go back five years in the past to the last season of Subban with the Canadiens and compare each of the following seasons.
There are some areas where Subban has not really fallen away from his previous self, such as: B. his overall game success or failure rate – which measures both the volume of games a player is involved in and how often they are successful in their games attempts – along with maintaining a very high fluctuation rate in the defensive zone in the Compared to his colleagues, even before the team structure was adjusted, which usually puts Subban even higher in the ranking.
Then there are the areas that are a little more obvious to the eye, like Subban, who went from the 99th percentile in offensive games in his last season in Montreal to about 70 in the following three seasons in Nashville down to the 70th percentile passes under 60 this season. This is a major loss in offensive contributions.
The decline in the Nashville landing is likely due in part to the fact that he joined a team that already had Roman Josi in charge of the backend offensive, which forced Subban to take a decidedly less risky approach to his game reflects the transition from the 80th percentile in the defensive zone fluctuation rate to an average 95th percentile in Nashville.
Subban turned from a risk taker who was still excellent at handling the puck but also tended to make some pretty big sales to a lock-it-down defender who also managed to provoke a strong insult. It was a stylistic change that, despite some problems in the first year during the regular season, did not really lead to a decline in his game overall in the first two seasons and even led to a nomination for the Norris Trophy in 2017/18
However, last season he saw a gigantic decline in his ability to move the puck to 53rd percentile in transition games, barely above an average defender, though his opposition's strength waned somewhat.
This season the puck has actually gotten back into shape, and Subban is approaching the 80th percentile again. However, since his offense has decreased significantly, it is clear that the majority of his involvement does not appear in the offensive zone.
At the same time, Subban saw the highest strength of the opposition in his career, seeing more defensive battles than ever before. In the past, Subban has been average on defending its own blue line, while this season it is below 4.5 percent of all defenders when it refuses to enter its defense zone. This pervious Blueline defense has created other issues, which has made Subban one of the worst 20-minute on-ice slot passes in the league.
When it comes to shots, he still gives very strong numbers compared to his teammates, but the passes were a big problem for him, so the shots against it while he is on the ice are far more dangerous than most other. This is also not typical of Subban, who usually posts strong numbers in this area.
However, the number of slot passes against a player on the ice is strongly related to the strength of the opponents, so some of his fights there are due to tougher minutes with weaker teammates, but obviously not all.
The permeable defense and lack of attack have made Subban a high-level transition player this season. If you read one of the top 20 player rankings by position I've used before, you know that the transition to Subban's weakest area has been in recent seasons overall. The main reason for this was always his confidence to throw the puck out of the defensive zone instead of playing a controlled game, but it was still the offensive and defensive zones that he exercised the most during his heyday.
At 31 in mid-May, the decline is the normal pattern for a Defender Subban's age, but that doesn't mean that a player is no longer effective. Mike Green, for example, was not nearly what he was for the Washington Capitals in his prime, but he was an excellent defender until the mid-30s, who at the time was still a decent number 2 in many teams and his offensive game evaporated.
The decline of Subban, however, appears to have been rapid in the past two years, with steep declines in certain areas, which should be a little worrying for anyone who saw it in its prime. The cause of these fights has been speculated with known back problems for years, and I wonder if he ever fully recovered from this collision with Alexei Emelin on his last shift with the Montreal Canadiens.
The time when Subban was one of the super elite defenders in the NHL is probably over, but when he regained his transition game this year after a sharp decline last season, I don't think I did Throwing in a towel he found ways to adapt and bring other areas of his game back to a reasonable range.
If the earlier problems are the cause, this extended free time caused by the global pandemic in which we are all involved may be a blessing for the charismatic defender.