New Jersey Devils: P.K. Subban Quietly Producing Offensively

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 20: P.K. Subban #76 of the New Jersey Devils takes the puck in the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center on February 20, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 20: P.K. Subban #76 of the New Jersey Devils takes the puck in the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center on February 20, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Every team has a scapegoat, and the New Jersey Devils are no exception. Having lost five of their last six contests, including back-to-back defeats over the weekend, the consensus of Devils fans have appeared to set their sights on defenseman P.K. Subban as this season’s punching bag.

His lackluster defensive play has been extremely problematic, as reflected in his stats. Subban leads the team in most on-ice goals against (23), including 15 at five-on-five. The New Jersey Devils haven’t fared well with Subban on the ice five-on-five, performing below 50 percent across the board (aside from Corsi-For—50.31). His struggles are especially evident in categories like expected goals (43.54), regular scoring chances (44.70), and high danger opportunities (36.00). He has also faced the most on-ice shot attempts and scoring chances this season, at all strengths (312 shot attempts, 159 scoring chances) and five-on-five (238 shot attempts, 120 scoring chances).

Especially when you take his $9 million price tag into consideration, Subban’s defensive ineptness is far from acceptable, and the fanbase’s ire with the 12-year veteran is wholly justifiable. However, while Subban’s defensive blunders have been the primary focus of his play this season, the 31 year old is quietly posting decent offensive numbers that warrant acknowledgement.

To date, Subban has one goal and eight points in 17 games, a notable improvement to the numbers he posted 17 contests into his 2019-20 campaign (two goals, five points). Assuming he plays in all 56 contests, Subban is projected to finish the year with about three goals and 26 points. Over an 82-game season, he would be on pace for roughly 5 goals and 38 points, which would have been his highest totals since 2017-18. Subban is only behind Ty Smith (two goals, 11 points) in scoring among New Jersey Devils defensemen, leads the backend in shots (42), and is tied for second on the team with Kyle Palmieri.

After getting just one assist during his first seven contests, Subban’s play has picked up considerably in the last 10 games, over which he’s gotten one goal and seven points. His five-on-five advanced stats have mostly dropped by a percentage point or two, and there were noteworthy shifts in New Jersey’s high danger chance percentage with Subban on the ice (40.00% in his first seven games, 33.85 percent in his last 10), along with percentage of goals scored (36.36 in his first seven contests, 46.67 in his last 10). Based on these numbers, we can infer that Subban’s defensive play hasn’t particularly improved between his first seven and last 10 contests, but the team seems to have experienced an uptick in scoring with him on the ice.

Consistency will be key with Subban if he wants to continue maintaining this current trajectory. He presently has .470 points per game, a stark improvement compared to his production over the same amount of games into last season (two goals, five points, .294 PPG). The table below shows Subban’s points per game over his first 17 matches every year since 2016-2017, and what his final rate was at season’s end.

SeasonPPG First 17 GMSFinal PPG

If his numbers 17 games into each of the last four seasons, compared to his final figures are any indication, Subban should continue to roughly maintain his current production rate. Ideally, it would be nice to see him maintain the pace he’s had over his last 10 contests, but as the above figures indicate, Subban’s production tends to peter out slightly as the season progresses (albeit injuries certainly factored into the first three seasons).

Next. Statistics Show One Positive In Devils PK. dark

New Jersey Devils fans have rightfully been frustrated with PK Subban’s play this season, but he’s shown flashes of ample offensive production, especially over the last month. While it’s abundantly clear Subban’s glaring defensive shortcomings severely outweigh his offensive contributions, the blue liner’s recent productive uptick is a bright spot he could hopefully continue building on moving forward.