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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

WWYDW: Jordan Subban

Something caught my eye this week as I was scrolling through twitter and looking for any Canucks-related news to sink my teeth into. With the influx of new players through the draft and free agency this offseason, I had almost forgotten about Jordan Subban.

It’s a stock response from any prospect on the bubble who’s asked about what the future holds, but you get the sense that Subban really means it, especially if he’s inherited any of older brother P.K.’s confidence.

Being the younger brother of a bona-fide superstar brought an elevated level of hype for a fourth-round selection, so it’s easy to feel like Subban has been with the organization forever. In reality, he’s just 22 years old, and playing a position that’s notoriously difficult to master, especially for someone of his small stature.

He still has plenty of time to develop, but based on what’s been said about Subban in the media by just about anyone connected to the team, it’s never seemed as though the Canucks are particularly high on Subban.

So, that brings us to this week’s question. Where do you see Subban heading in the next year or so? Does he have a future with the club? Do you think the team should be patient, or cut bait while he still has some name recognition?

Last week I asked: Virtanen looked good in his rookie season but has faltered since then, failing to make an impact even at the American League level. His boxcar stats indicate that he’s a player who needs seasoning, but he also brings a physical element to his game that the Canucks are sorely lacking. Where would you like to see him start the season?

Sandpaper:

No gifting of spots to anyone. If a player does not perform then they should not be on the team.
Whether it be Jake, Brock, Reid or even the anchor Loui, you don’t perform the role that is assigned to you, then you sit in press box or sent to minors.
Pretty simple. Although I hope Jake makes the team.

Burnabybob:

Unless Virtanen shows DRAMATIC improvement at training camp, he should start the season in Utica. I would be far more inclined to give a roster spot to Goldobin, who looks much more NHL-ready than Virtanen does. Virtanen did show some improvement in the second half of last season, and hopefully he can build on it. But putting him in the crosshairs of the Vancouver media would not be in his or the team’s interests at this point.

Killer Marmot:

Last year, Virtanen showed up in training camp overweight and out of shape, and his season never recovered from that. Sometimes young players don’t understand what it takes to make it in the big leagues. But the good thing is that they can and do learn.
So what to do? If Virtanen shows up at camp lean and fit then wipe the slate clean and assess him precisely as you would any other promising prospect.
And if he doesn’t then cut him early and start putting out trade feelers. The Canucks had many flaws last year, but lack of effort and dedication wasn’t one of them. That needs to be maintained.

ManicSt:

A big part of JV’s problem last year was his workout regime – he was too bulky and didn’t have the cardiovascular conditioning to play a shift at a high pace. If he’s thinner and spends more time on his stamina, I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back to where he was as a rookie. The biggest question to me isn’t whether he can make the team this season, but whether he’s got the ability to be anything more than an energetic third-liner in the future.

chris16w:

agree with JD that he should start in Utica, and no matter what. He shouldn’t be evaluated exactly the same as other prospects because he’s already endured multiple failures and is likely rebuilding his confidence. That’s not the kind of thing that a franchise can navigate more than once per player (eg. Kassian, Baertschi). Bring him up only if/when he is consistently excelling in Utica.

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    • Dirty30

      Considering the criticisms of Subban are his lack of size and defensive ability, it does make sense to give him a turn as a forward. He has offensive upside, speed and his size at forward would be less of an issue. He’s not going to turn into Brett Burns, but then he’s not exactly playing like Erik Karlsson either.

    • Fortitude00

      yup its either move him to forward, bring him up as a 7th d just for the PP(this leaves you with a forward less every night so probably have to use him as a forward to make that work) or be patient.

  • Green and Baumgartner have had lots of time to get to know Subban and what he’s capable of over the past couple of seasons in Utica. It’s ultimately Green who decides who is in the lineup every night – if he wants Subban and thinks Subban deserves a shot, he’ll be there.

    I hope we get a chance to see whether he can hack it at the NHL level. Given that management brought in players like Del Zotto and Gagner in the off-season, it seems like they’re more open to playing the high risk/high reward game that is Subban’s calling card.

  • apr

    If Jordan’s last name was not Subban, I think more people would be willing to let the guy develop in the AHL until he is ready. Its like having Keith Gretzky in the AHL while Wayne is being a GOAT (not that PK is). Just give it time until his coaches deems he’s ready. Why bring him to a team the NHL while he is not ready on a team that will likely finish bottom 5 last year, outside the fact that his last name is Subban and you are curious.

    • Give him a shot because Subban has been an elite offensive producer in junior and the AHL and this team sucks on the power play. A few games doesn’t affect his contract status at all and it can’t be worse than the utter failure that was Phillip Larsen.

        • You presume that the idea is to keep Subban up for the entire season, regardless of performance. That’s not what fans are asking for. They just want to see Subban play a few games to see where he’s at and what he can do on the power play.

          Further to that, it’s not the first time the Canucks have sheltered their defencemen. For example, Biega played 36 games and averaged 13 mins / 20 shifts per game. McEneny, who got a shot, had 15 mins / 23 shifts. Larsen over 26 games was 16 mins / 21 shifts. Compare that to the high water mark with Edler at 24 mins / 28 shifts over 68 games.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    I don’t think he will earn a spot in training camp (but at least keep him around longer this year!), as it is likely not enough time to prove that he has improved enough defensively. But if he proves that he has rounded out his game and deserves an NHL roster spot after a month or two with Utica, make room for him by trading/demoting Wiercioch. I think it’s worth hanging on to him for at least another season at least, as his offensive upside has value beyond what you probably get back in a trade. His AHL stats line looks an awful lot like Adam Clendening’s, though, so we should temper our expectations for Subban as a Canuck or as trade bait.

  • Moderated Post

    Unless Benning’s changed his mind again about what he wants the team to look like, Subban’s path to the NHL is blocked by Stecher. Stecher did well last season and Benning has a vested interest in seeing him succeed.

  • wojohowitz

    Maybe it is time for an article speculating on what Travis Green views as a successful mix like if Del Zotto can not run the PP is Subban high on the depth chart or maybe Stecher should get an opportunity. Will he make room for some muscle like Labate or Archibald. Will Boeser or McEneny be better off playing 10-20 games in Utica. Will the twins get prime minutes on the PP even if the PP starts off 0-10, 0-20 or heaven forbid 0-30. What do we know about Travis Green.

  • I think this iteration of management made up their minds very quickly about Subban (remember what a chore it was even to sign him), and have been hesitant to move off that first impression. So while some may allege that the name recognition gives Subban unwarranted hype or even an inside track, all else being equal, I think the odds have been largely stacked against him from the beginning. At this point, with whatever “reputation” he has (which is probably a combination of simply observing that he is small and the fact that all offensive defensemen are just sort of presumed to be net negatives these days despite any math), it would be near-impossible for him to earn his way onto the team, and I expect he will be cashed in for a late pick during or just before the season.

    I think back to last time the Canucks were really bad, and I remember a number of phoenixes rising from the ashes despite not having the highest of expectations at the time — Näslund, Bertuzzi, Aucoin, Cooke. The luxury you have when your team is in a trough is that you’re not operating with no room for error. Give the kid a chance, why not?

    • apr

      Because we have already seen the Steve Kariya show. He put up a lot of points in the AHL (almost a point per game) and was not ready for NHL – he was no Fleury, Ronning, let alone like his big brother. He just was a fancy name.

  • Son of a son

    I was seriously frustrated by management’s decision last year to send Subban down after a single preseason game. Would that really produce a fair evaluation of his game? I hope that Benning sees how much this means and Jordan and gives him at least 3-4 preseason games to prove himself.

    • DJ_44

      They do not just evaluate during a game. They look at overall performance during the training camp. By Jordan’s own admission, he had a poor camp last year. Couple that with the abbreviated 7 game pre-season, why keep up a 2nd year, 4th round pick that failed to impress? You also want to get a better look at players like Stecher that were really impressive. Lot’s of bodies to slot into five games (since the last two will be taken up by regulars).

  • TD

    If his last name wasn’t Subban, there would be no conversations about a 22 year old fourth round pick. Let him develop and see where he goes as he has lots of potential, but don’t treat him differently than any other prospect. Certainly don’t trade him unless the return was overwhelming.

    I liked the interview with Subban about his brother inviting him for the cup final and telling him to watch Ryan Ellis. Subban stated he learned a lot by watching the way Ellis positioned himself and played in the defensive end. He said it was very different than how he played and was eager to incorporate it into his own game.

    I have been a proponent of trying Subban as a fourth line forward who could be the quarterback of one of the power play units. He seems so dynamic with the puck, it would make sense that he could become a good forward.

    • TD

      I wish the edit button still existed. To make sure I’m not contradicting myself, I don’t think they should turn him into a winger at this point, but should consider it before giving up on him. It would also be a decent move for a couple games if MDZ or one of the other PP quarterbacks got hurt.

  • TheRealPB

    I have no idea what it is that the coaching staff sees up close but there has to be a reason that despite the defense getting absolutely destroyed by injuries and having pretty shallow depth the last two years Subban has never gotten a shot. There are plenty of one-dimensional D out there (offensively and defensively) but at the end of the day you still need to be able to play at least basic defense. I know it doesn’t always feel like that when you see a Sbisa, Larsen or Bartkowski patrolling your blue line so it really makes me wonder what it was that made the coaching staff here so unwilling to take a look at Subban even when the roster was felled by old-timey diseases. You would think with the seeming confidence that Green had in at least deploying him in Utica that Subban would get his best shot here this season but I would imagine he also had input into who deserved the call-up — and both Baumgartner and Green have raved about Mceneny and even spoken more highly of Pedan than Subban.

    I don’t think the Canucks are averse to giving a smallish defenseman a shot. That’s why Stetcher is here. But Stetcher made his way onto the team with his play and really never looked out of place. Can you honestly say that about Subban based on his play — not his last name, his boxcar stats line and his admittedly gregarious and likable character?

  • truthseeker

    What would I do? I’d let the coaches handle it. Don’t know enough about the kid to even have an opinion as to why he hasn’t gotten his shot. It’s all speculation.

  • Burnabybob

    If he’s playing well in Utica, they might as well give him at least a spell with the big club this season. What have they got to lose? It’s not like this team is likely to be fighting for a playoff spot. If he plays well in Vancouver, awesome. If he doesn’t play well, then it gives him a clearer idea of what he needs to work on, and it placates the restless fans and media.

  • Burnabybob

    I just looked at Subban’s stats on hockeydb. He’s had a negative +/- rating in every junior and AHL season except one. It could be that he just isn’t a very good defenseman and never will be.

  • Sandpaper

    If he can’t improve his defensive coverage, I would send him to the ECHL, until he picks up that aspect of the game.
    Far too many fans was the to gift players spots even if for only a few games.

  • Spiel

    First of all Subban needs to be better than Troy Stecher to make the Canucks. Defenceman 5’10 and under are rare in the NHL, and having two on the same team and the same time would be unprecedented.

    There is a future for Subban, but he needs to make it happen. Nothing will be handed to him.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    If I were Subban (not mgmt), I would fire my agent for not having got me the hell off this garbage team already as mgmt has been VERY clear in their actions that Subban WILL NEVER get a sniff at the NHL level here. Honestly, I feel bad for the kid. Hold out or something? Pull a Drouin already. Anything to extricate himself from this situation.

  • Willie Coyoyte

    Unless Subban is lights-out on the pp, just no room for him….can’t see Green using two undersized d-men like Stecher and Subban in same d-pairings.