By Stu Hackel
Is Montreal rookie P.K. Subban too cocky? Flyers captain Mike Richards thinks so, but you have to wonder if he would be as critical of the brash defenseman, who is playing a leading role for the Canadiens, if Subban were wearing orange, black and white instead of bleu, blanc et rouge.
Following the Canadiens' 3-0 win last night over the Flyers, Richards told Montreal radio Team 990 (audio on TSN's website) "He's (Subban) a guy that's come in the league and hasn't earned respect. It's just frustrating to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he's better than a lot of people. You got to earn respect in this league. It takes a lot. You can't just come in here as a rookie and play like that. It's not the way to get respect from other players around the league and hopefully someone on their team addresses it, because -- I'm not saying I'm going to do it -- but something might happen to him if he continues to be that cocky."
How did Subban earn Richards' scorn? It could have started with this little incident involving Claude Giroux...
...but in the middle of the third period, with Philly trailing 3-0, Subban angered Richards after Richards shoved Andrei Kostitsyn from behind. Kostitsyn went back at him and they started to go, but Subban got between them, arms extended like a boxing referee. That led Richards to confront Subban. Both got roughing minors and a few Flyers milled around and started jawing at the kid.
Late in the game, Subban was again roughed up by the Flyers after he and Giroux exchanged slashes. Sean O'Donnell got a 10 minute misconduct for horsecollaring Subban and Richards had a few more words to say as well.
"I think when you're a first year player in the league, I think maybe guys don't expect you to stand up for yourself, but...there were just a lot of confrontations out there today. It doesn't happen every game," Subban said afterward (video). "They're a tough team and they're not going to back down, either."
He added that he thought the Habs didn't need Kostitsyn fighting Richards and, "I just tried to step in there, and before you know it, his gloves were off. I was just trying to hold on and the refs were in there...I was just trying to help my teammate."
At Habs practice today, teammates weren't taking Richards' advice to censure Subban. "That's when P.K. plays well, when he's under people's skin and forces people into poor decisions trying to hit him," said Habs blueliner Hal Gill (quoted by Pierre Lebrun on ESPN.com). "Then he can skate and wheel off and make plays. From what I've seen, that's what P.K. does well. I wouldn't expect him to change anything he does. You know, he's got a lot to learn about the game, but I think the way he plays, it is exciting and fun."
Obviously, Mike Richards thinks otherwise.
Update: Here's video from TSN of Subban and Gill speaking after practice today.
Subban wasn't the only object of scorn in the NHL today. Nashville's Wade Belak was asked about a rather notorious pest by Dean Blundell over Toronto radio station 102.1 The Edge, and said of the Unsavory Sean Avery, "I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire. I'm surprised they haven't burned his house down."
Flames GM Darryl Sutter traded his son Brett, a leftwinger, along with defenseman Ian White to Carolina in exchange for defenseman Anton Babchuk and right winger Tom Kostopoulos. Brett, who was arrested in Phoenix over the weekend after allegedly punching a cab driver while drunk, will have as a teammate his cousin, Brandon, who is an alternate captain for the Hurricanes.
Tonight in the NHL: A few compelling games are on the schedule starting in Detroit with the Blues, who are trying to recapture their early form after losing two straight. The Red Wings are two points ahead of St. Louis at the top of the Central Division, and have won eight of 10. The Blues have recalled Detroit area native T.J. Hensick from Peoria and the playmaking center will be in the lineup at the Joe tonight. He's had six goals, nine assists and was plus-3 in 13 AHL games this season.
At Madison Square Garden, the Bruins and Rangers have an Original Six matchup in which the Blueshirts, winners of three straight, will wear their new third jersey, a hybrid of their first ever sweater and their late '70's look with "New York" on the front. The Icethetics blog has the story on what the Rangers call their "Heritage Jersey."
The Blue Jackets have played well on the road so far (4-0-1) and they're in Los Angeles against the Kings, who had their five-game winning streak snapped on Monday in San Jose. The Kings are undefeated at home, where they've won eight straight.