New Jersey Devils Should Try To Turn P.K. Subban Into Scott Stevens

New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (76): (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (76): (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /

Listen, nobody is going to like it when we use the names P.K. Subban and Scott Stevens in the same sentence. One was the captain that led the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cups while literally putting his entire body on the ice. He’s a Hall of Famer who will go down as one of the best all-around defensemen in history. The other is one of the biggest disappointments over the past two seasons. Subban was supposed to bring stability to the Devils’ defense, but he’s one of the main reasons for their volatility.

Looking back at Stevens’s career, the point totals stand out at the beginning of his career, but they absolutely plummet after that. When he was 29 years old during the 1993-94 season, he had 78 points. He also had a ridiculous 52 +/-. Only two players had a better +/- in the entire 90s. (We know it’s a flawed stat, but it’s still impressive to be that high.)

P.K. Subban could emulate Scott Stevens for the second half of his career.

Looking at Subban’s career, his last great offensive season was when he was 28 years old. He plays a physical style to add to his offense, just like Stevens, which leads to injuries that have hurt his offensive skill. He still has a wicked shot, but his inability to get to open areas makes it moot. This is why he’s been a net negative on the ice this season based on almost every advanced stat.

Subban is clearly playing better than he was last season, but he’s making too many mistakes on the ice and his big plays are still too few to be a top-line defenseman. The price of Subban doesn’t matter at this point, but the Devils were hoping for at least a top-20 defenseman this season. He has struggled to be in the top 50 despite showing flashes of greatness.

So, Stevens and Subban both saw their offensive numbers drop during the same age range. However, Stevens seemed to have changed his philosophy to adjust to his new play style. Subban, on the other hand, is still trying to play like he’s 24. It just doesn’t work that way.

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The Devils need to see if Stevens’ transition will work for Subban. They can even bring Stevens directly in to help teach him what to do. Stevens can bring his unique perspective that will resonate with a player like Subban. He sees his number in the rafters every night they play at the Prudential Center. He knows that Stevens knows what he’s talking about better than maybe a coach who was better off the ice than on it.

Subban has all the skills to be a hard-hitting defenseman who can safely put fear into the other team. Obviously, a hard hitter leads to more penalty minutes, but anything is better than the hesitant Subban that he’s shown in the defensive zone. He needs to focus more on getting a player off the puck. Lately, he’s been focusing more on getting into lanes. That’s not the best use of Subban’s skill set.

Early in his Devils career, Subban showed his hitting prowess, but it quickly became a confidence issue. Subban needs a reset. The Devils can’t just buy him out with Cory Schneider‘s buyout still on the books for the next three seasons. They also shouldn’t just pay the Seattle Kraken to take him off their hands. They have him for one more season after this, and they can find a way to get value out of this player.

Stevens found a way to transition his career from offense to a more defensive-minded role. If Subban could change his focus, it might breathe some fresh air into his career and give him a different perspective. It will give him something new, which he hasn’t really had in a while. Many fans are upset about all the things Subban does outside hockey, but maybe that’s what he needs to be stimulated? The Devils should be able to tap into that and make it turn Subban into the best version of himself.