Subban vs Shaw

Remember on the 29th June when Pernell Karl Subban – Montreal’s most adored defenseman – was traded to Nashville? For the sake of this post, it doesn’t matter which team got the better deal out of the Subban-Weber trade. The important point is that rumours swirled it was due to a character issue, i.e. PK’s character didn’t suit Montreal.

It’s a fact I’m still not over. Some people think he dives and whines to the ref. You can say that about any number of players in the league – how many Flyers fans repeatedly say that about Crosby? PK is extraordinary on the ice. Off the ice, Subban has pledged to donate $10million to the Montreal children’s a-one-of-a-kind-customized-canadian-mink-jacket-dyed-cerisehospital – a promise he will keep despite now living in Nashville. He went and surprised the kids and provided them and their families with a winter wonderland surprise, disguised himself as a bus driver to surprise a bunch of children, can perform an excellent rendition of Let It Go, hosted a just for laughs gala, took French lessons so he could communicate better in Montreal, sent a gift to a resident of Fort McMurray whose belongings were destroyed in a forest fire, and the widow of Jean Beliveau used to attend the Bell Center in a Subban jersey and blew kisses to him. Oh, and he’s a dapper gentleman.

The Habs also gained Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks this summer. To his credit, Shaw has done well in the NHL considering he’s on the smaller side of an NHLer and won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks. His nickname is the mutt because he’s an agitator. When playing for the AHL team, he received a six game suspension for leaving the bench to fight. Four games after returning he received another game ban for a boarding incident.

During a playoff game against the Blues on April 19th 2016, Shaw was suspended for instigating a brawl after the final horn and shouting a homophobic remark at a referee. He apologised and was fined $5000. Then, in a pre-season game for the Habs he was banned for three games for another boarding incident then in October he slew footed a Sabres player at the end of the game. And then a few days ago Shaw had a meltdown in the penalty box.


But sure, Montreal traded PK because his character didn’t fit with the team.


Self-Determination Theory

Is this all there is? A question that has plagued humankind for a long time. Our pursuit of knowledge and growth has ensured that each generation extend themselves further than the previous due to our innate need to grow. The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) holds that we seek to resolve psychological inconsistencies and satisfy needs, therefore interventions focus on facilitation, support, and nurture.

There are three fundamental needs and a good way to really understand them is thinking about the PK//Weber trade:sdt1

  • Autonomy – volition and agency is your actions aka when PK was traded to Nashville, it was not an autonomous decision from him.
  • Competence – the need to feel effective within your environment and experience the optimal exercise of your capabilities e.g. PK is more than a competent player – he’s incredible but I’m biased – however Therrien didn’t feel he had competence in Montreal so bye bye Pernell
  • Relatedness – the need to experience mutually satisfying social relationships… Therrien banned the triple low five between Carey Price and PK Subban because they had an overwhelmingly satisfying social relationship, and it is one he cannot relate to

So there we have our basic needs. But not everybody will seek to have meaningful relationships, be autonomous, or be competent at what they do; and for some it will not be of their own free choice. We all know that going running is great for the body and the mind, but let’s be honest – it is awful. So why do people run? It’s all down to different motivations.


On this spectrum amotivation is a complete lack of intention to engage in a behaviour (definitely me on the running front). External regulation is running because others have pressure me to go and if I don’t go running then I have to cook dinner/I get to run and come home and eat dinner. Introjected regulation is accompanied by a negative emotional tone and an inner conflict because you don’t value the activity but you have a high demand to do it. I must go running or else I will feel guilty about not going. A little further along the scale there is identified regulation whereby you engage in a behaviour because it has personally valued outcomes. I run because it has health benefits and is good for my asthma therefore it’s important that I do (no matter how much I cry). Integrated regulation means the activity fits with your own sense of self, I run because I am a runner. Now this is different to intrinsic motivation where you run just because you love running and love a challenge (very strange). The goal is to shift motivations closer to intrinsic.

You can have all these needs and the desire to achieve them but you need an environment where you can thrive. Think of PK in Montreal. Quality player, good relationships, he was the only player who had his sh*t together last season, the city of Montreal really loved him – they still love him – he gave a lot to charity and got involved with the community. So naturally, you trade this player from his facilitating environment………… Likewise, Shea Weber was very loved in Nashville and served as their captain. Changing environments can be a strange experience, so another part of SDT is to maintain a facilitating environment to nurture the three needs. Conversely, one that is controlling, over-challenging or rejects an individual’s needs will result in defensive behaviours and psychological withdrawal. Take Tyler Seguin who started out alright in Boston, but he was a young guy with the world at his feet on a team where the majority were married and settled down and the management began to restrict him. Send him to Dallas, with an environment that better fits him and what a turn-around in his stats. How do you provide a supportive environment?

  • sdt3Autonomy Support – provision of options, minimise pressure, encourage them to initiate their own actions
  • Structure – Positive feedback, clear and realistic expectations, behaviour-outcome relations are understood by both
  • Involvement  – emotional support, genuine interest, empathy


(If you really want to thwart someone’s needs then be controlling, give unstructured or negative feedback, and alienate them!).



Last night (02/17), the Montreal Canadiens suffered yet another defeat this season, this time at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. In the words of head coach, Michel Therrien, “it’s too bad an individual mistake cost us the game“. PK Subban lost the puck and Avs scored, so to punish the star defenseman he was benched for the last few minutes of the game, and in the post-game scrimmage his coach threw him under the bus. (Nevermind that Subban is the team’s point leader and has been involved in 61.3% of the team’s goals). Now this is not the first time Therrien has attributed the team’s poor form on individual players. Indeed, it may be the case that some players just aren’t cutting it and you can rip them to shreds for that in private, but in the public eye you ought to take the loss as a team, as a unit, because that’s what you are. Or at least what you’re supposed to be.

Therrien has escalated from throwing his players under the bus to actively running them over. 

The team started the season in a blaze of glory, their best in franchise history, then they lost Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher to injury and it’s been a slippery slope from there. Let’s be real – you weren’t winning because of Price, he was the only thing that stopped you from losing! The team is lacking in offensive prowess but these problems can’t be easily solved when Therrien is reluctant to provide rookies an opportunity, demonstrates poor utilization of players like Galchenyuk and favors Weise and Desharnais. He has already shown a terrible response following Galchenyuk’s girlfriend assaulting him by announcing “he’ll learn”. (This post goes into it in more detail). Therrien’s public treatment of players runs the risk of him being shut out of the dressing room as Darryl Sutter was by the LA Kings. When speaking of Lars Eller, the coach had this to say:

“To be on top of his game, he has to be responsible defensively. I trust Plekanec, I trust Desharnais.”

The coach recently had the team do suicide sprints on the ice to send a message. What message? That you are an incompetent coach? That you’re stubborn as hell? These are professional athletes whose fitness should be no issue, but suicides are awful and clearly Therrien is using it as a form of punishment. Let’s not focus on our terrible powerplay, instead you can do something unproductive as punishment. The message is clear: Winning doesn’t matter, the points don’t matter, me being in charge matters. A coach should be in charge and respected, but respect is earned. I would argue that the team’s cohesiveness will have taken a big hit this season, but when your coach is coming out and attacking individual players in public, maybe they are all working and hoping for his firing.

A real life angel

The only thing I #BlameSubban for is the fact the Habs aren’t dead last in the league. He’s saved your asses over and over again, is met with racist crap constantly, shows great humility despite his coach’s treatment, and is an overall wonderful human.