No kid has better symbolized Team Canada’s play as a whole — so far — than its goaltender Malcolm Subban.
He’s looked shaky. Lots of rebounds. He’s lanky and the tallest guy on the ice, but that’s only useful if he uses it. Subban could be 7-foot-5. It doesn’t matter the way he goes down. He plays the butterfly like a moth. And, at this World Junior Championship — with the foot speed and the rifled shots of the Russians, Americans, and Swedes only a knock away — that’s not good.
Subban is a fine goaltender, and it’s important to make that clear because the first worry of all Canadians when a goaltender gets cut is, “Oh, no. Will he make the NHL?”
Well, yes. He’ll have his shot. Subban is perfectly suited for the North American game. He’s big and he can move. He’s a Giguere and a Kirk McLean. But, there is a danger in picking your starter months before the tournament actually takes place. Sure, he’s P.K.’s brother and he’s been stupendous for the Belleville Bulls, but the Belleville Bulls are not Team Canada.
He’s got the style NHL coaches are looking for. That puts him on TSN’s rader, but it’s also a big problem for this tournament.
NHL coaches shouldn’t man Team Canada, but they often do. They can never get out of their own way. They’re fixated on what works in the CHL and what works in the Bigs, and they never pay attention to what they actually have to do that week.
There’s a reason Brent Sutter never really stuck as a head coach in the NHL, and a reason goalies like Justin Pogge didn’t, either.
At the Juniors, you need to be smaller. Quicker. More agile.
Malcolm Subban isn’t. He’s clunky. He fights the puck. He goes down like a naive porn star asked to do “girl/girl” the first time. On Slovakia’s second goal on Friday morning (in a game the Canadians eventually pulled out, 6-3) Subban fell to his knees twice in a matter of a second. The first shot was blocked, and he missed the second shot. It went high — top corner cheese — over his right shoulder and clinkity-clanged down to the ice.
Subban looked helpless, almost like he was saying, “What are we supposed to do?”
It was a good shot. We’ll give the Slovak snipers that. But, Malcolm Subban shouldn’t kid himself. He never had a chance to stop it, and the worry is that everyone else has already figured him out.
If the Slovaks get it, don’t you think the Russians the Americans do, too?