Jacques Martin took a calculated risk yesterday and the Canadiens made it work. Benching rookie of the year frontrunner and fan favorite P.K. Subban, whose subpar performance figured prominently in Wednesday's loss to the Oilers at the Bell Center, was as big a bombshell as Martin has dropped this season. It's not as if Subban was stinking the joint out on a regular basis. In the absence of the injured Andrei Markov, Subban is Montreal's most capable puck moving defenceman in a rearguard corps that's not otherwise fleet afoot, and making him a healthy scratch represented a big gamble, especially going into New Jersey, which traditionally has been a Canadiens burial ground. Happily for the Habs, it was 2-0 Montreal before Subban was comfortably nestled into his press box seat, and the Canadiens never looked back, turning a controversial personnel decision into a scoresheet footnote.
There could be elements at play that aren't readily apparent, including the dynamic in the dressing room. Players from other teams have complained publicly about Subban being too big for his britches, and some of his own veteran teammates might feel the same way. Subban never met a camera or a microphone he didn't like, and enthusiasm for the limelight isn't an endearing quality. As an exercise in serving up humble pie, benching your best defenceman might not be the best plan strategically, but it is the surest way of getting his and everyone else's attention.