It is a shame the Bruins lost Malcolm Subban to the Golden Knights on waivers for nothing. Subban was the team’s first-round pick in 2012. He was the second goalie picked after Tampa Bay drafted Andrei Vasilevskiy, currently entering his first full season as the Lightning’s No. 1.
But losing Subban for zero was better than the alternative: keeping him on the varsity roster behind Tuukka Rask.
I have never seen a more athletic goalie than Subban at any level. He is fast, quick, explosive, and flexible beyond comprehension. But the Bruins pulled Subban from both of his NHL starts because he didn’t deserve to be on the ice in the first place. The pucks that Minnesota and St. Louis slipped past Subban had no business being behind any NHL goalie.
So it would not have been fair to Subban or the Bruins to keep him up top simply for the sake of not losing him on waivers. The 23-year-old may, with time, develop into an NHL goalie. Vegas has the luxury of taking said time, given the expansion franchise will not be competitive for years.
But the Bruins have to win now. For that to happen, Rask has to be under the games-played threshold he’s hit in the last three years. Rask needs his rest, and the Bruins require a varsity goalie to tend the net while that happens. Subban is not that, not when he can’t beat out a seventh-round pick like Zane McIntyre for the Providence crease.
In retrospect, Subban was picked too soon. Drafting goalies is even more of a dart throw than taking skaters. Aside from sure shots like Carey Price (No. 5 overall in 2005), teenage goalies are subject to significant variations in development curves. Winthrop’s Rick DiPietro flamed out as a No. 1 pick. If you have heard of goalie Brent Krahn, taken eight slots after DiPietro in the first round of 2000, you are a better hockey observer than me.
It would have been nice had Subban cleared waivers. He needs AHL time to work on his technique and train his brain to stay engaged for 60 minutes. But the Golden Knights are willing to be patient. It’s a quality the Bruins could not afford.