SIMMONS SUNDAY: With NHL training camps about to begin, P.K. Subban is nowhere to be found

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From the time he was four years old, when September came around P.K. Subban knew what team he was going to be playing for.

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In his early years in the GTHL, there was annual demand for Subban’s immense talents. The phone calls were many. The annual recruitment was heavy. And then he became an NHL player, a legend of sorts, a magazine cover waiting to happen, a Norris Trophy winner, a philanthropist, a Stanley Cup finalist with a frightening slapshot and a contract that paid him among the highest salaries in the game.

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And now September is halfway over and Subban is nowhere to be found.

I called his agent and family members and friends and former general managers and all five of the numbers I had for him on my phone list. None of the numbers was his. One polite woman on the phone apologized for P.K. not having that number anymore. A few people said they would get him to call; he didn’t.

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NHL training camps open in just a few days. Rookie camps have already begun. And as of now, as far as we know, the 33-year-old defenceman has neither a place to play nor an invitation to any camp. No doubt he will wind up somewhere. He may not be a star anymore, but he’s not finished as a player. Thirty-three is almost young for a defenceman who can think the game and shoot it the way Subban can. But right now, there are no Subban sightings. If there is a place for him to play, an opportunity, he isn’t sharing that information.

This is the first time in a magnificent hockey life for Subban to face this kind of uncertainty, this time of unknowns.


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The Blue Jays are playing .632 baseball since John Schneider took over as manager. Over a 162-game schedule, that equates to 102 wins. When Charlie Montoyo was fired as manager, the Jays were on pace for 84 wins … Even with injuries to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., George Springer playing hurt, Alejandro Kirk on the limp, Teoscar Hernandez not 100%, Schneider has done nice work manipulating the lineup and paying particular interest to defence and speed with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bradley Zimmer as replacement parts … Schneider should have a 6-6 rule for Yusei Kikuchi. He gets to pitch, but only if the Jays are up by six runs or down by six runs. In basketball, they call that garbage time. Had Kikuchi not been saved by some generous — or myopic — strike calls Friday night, who knows how many runs he might have relinquished in his two innings pitched … Finishing first among wild-card teams is important for two really strong reasons. One, you get all the wild-card games at home. And, two, if you win the first round, you get a playoff series against the New York Yankees, not the Houston Astros … Albert Pujols is going to do it. As of Saturday afternoon, he only needed two home runs to hit the 700 mark. To put the 700 homers into some kind of perspective, consider this: Carlos Delgado is the Blue Jays leader in home runs, all-time. He hit 336 in Toronto and ended up with 473 in his career. Fred McGriff hit 493 homers. Joe Carter just 396. Jose Bautista, with most homers in a Jays season, ended his career with 344, less than half of Pujols’ total … Credit to the Blue Jays Social Media team. Bo Bichette dominating this month and turning an average season into a great one, they came up with the headline: SeptemBo.

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has now gone on the record and made it official: He wants to stay with the Blue Jays long-term. What he didn’t exactly say was: He wants to sign one of those giant contracts that are going around Major League Baseball these days.

Ross Atkins, the general manager, has already gone on record as saying there have been discussions with Guerrero’s people about him signing long-term in Toronto.

So here’s the question: Which Vladdy Guerrero would the Blue Jays be signing, assuming this is something that happens in the off-season?

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The Guerrero of last season, who absolutely dominated the American League offensively, is not all that different from how Aaron Judge has dominated this season.

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Or the Guerrero of this season, whose numbers have dropped in almost every conceivable category and while he is hitting fine — big picture — he is nowhere near the dominant player he was a year ago.

Clearly, American League teams have adjusted in how they are pitching to Guerrero. So much of what he faces seems down and away. And Guerrero has not adjusted similarly, with more meek infield ground balls than he hit at any time during previous seasons. Guerrero is hitting .225 in September with one home run and an almost embarrassing OPS of .591.

Soon, there will be a chance to see Guerrero in the playoffs — and view how he adjusts to that large stage.

No doubt, he will be paid a lot of money. But the Jays have to be cautious here, having witnessed one season of brilliance followed by another of sound play, but not all-time great kind of stuff. Which Guerrero is the one for the long term? The version of last year or the version of this year or another one, somewhere in between?

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That’s what Atkins and Mark Shapiro must determine between now and next season when Guerrero is likely to be tied up long-term.

John Tavares and William Nylander likely will start the season with the Maple Leafs as two-thirds of the club’s second line — which on paper seems nice, but in reality raises some questions.

Tavares has morphed into a sound second-line centre in his time in Toronto, not the offensive force the Leafs had hoped for upon signing him, but a more rounded player, the kind teams like to play behind first-line superstars.
Nylander has superstar talent and demonstrates that on occasion. The question is always, which occasion and what night will he be a difference maker? We know who Nylander is and what he does, and he’s not about to change at this stage of his career.

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The question for coach Sheldon Keefe and for Tavares and Nylander is this: Can these two players co-exist on a line and be effective in playing together? Or are they like dancing partners lacking in rhythm, who create offence but not necessarily for each other?

Keefe experimented last season with Nylander on the third line and that didn’t exactly work. It was reminiscent of what the Pittsburgh Penguins did in their Stanley Cup seasons, moving Phil Kessel to the third line rather than having him play with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. It worked for both Kessel and the Pens. It didn’t work for the Leafs.

The challenge now as training camp begins on Wednesday — for Keefe, for Tavares, for Nylander — is for each of them to make the other more dangerous.

Check out our sports section for the latest news and analysis. Care for a wager? Head to our sports betting section for news and odds.

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