Habs Shocker: P.K. Subban Traded To Nashville For Shea Weber

Photo: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Photo: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Habs Shocker: P.K. Subban Traded To Nashville For Shea Weber

The Habs made a trade, Wednesday afternoon, that was a fear in the hearts of most of us: P.K. Subban, an elite defenceman, has been traded to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber.

The news seemed to be reflected in the downpour of rain Montreal experienced all afternoon. And I have, on a personal level, had to gather my thoughts to be able to write this separately from my emotions. Because this was my biggest fear. I’ve never made a secret of my affinity for Subban.

The rumors had been flying for months now. All of them debunked by experts, analysts, and armchair pundits who used logic to shoot down the most remote possibility: “he’s not easily replaced,” and “it would have to be a massive return.”

When Gary Bettman, at the NHL Draft just days ago, announced a trade and “Montreal Canadiens” came out next, I think I was one of thousands whose hearts stopped. The trade was Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals, and through the rest of the evening, we waited for the other shoe to drop.

In his interview with newly drafted Canadiens, Mikhail Sergachev, Bergevin was asked about P.K. Subban – whose name had been dropped by Jim Benning of the Edmonton Oilers.

Bergevin’s answer was actually one that gave Habs fans a reason to breathe easier:

Five days later, it’s a whole new statement:

There’s one question on everyone’s mind: Why?

On the NHL Network, the popular show NHL Tonight, neither analyst could understand the reason for unloading Subban. As one put it, “all he did was come in, play hard, deliver, and yet he was never fully embraced by the Canadiens.” He clarified that the fans loved P.K., as did the media – and that personality was a big reason he was so popular. They noted that it never seemed to be something the front office fully welcomed. But neither analyst could find a reason for trading a superstar in his 20s for a talented, albeit older player who may well be in the back end of his career.

Was it a locker room dynamic? And if so, should something like that really affect a team to the point where a star player is dealt away? Rumors to this effect have flown like mad, but no one is in that room, and no one could truly say if that were the case. While I understand it can make things difficult, I don’t believe it was a fatal flaw. The Big Picture, Subban’s talent and achievements, should – in an ideal world – overshadow the nitty-gritty frictions (if, of course, they existed at all).

Was it a coach-player dynamic? And if so, shouldn’t there be a re-evaluation of both elements?

Many of us expressed bewilderment in the post-season presser when Bergevin announced no changes in the coaching staff. Many of us had come around to the understanding that Michel Therrien has made too many bad calls (David Desharnais playing more minutes than Alex Galchenyuk, or playing the first power-play unit on the blue line), and has not played his elite players appropriately. P.K. was one; Alex Galchenyuk another.

When the Habs went from a historic beginning of 2015-16 to an epic collapse, ending in the bottom 10 and not making playoffs, it seemed likely the coach would be fired. And yet, Bergevin showed loyalty to Therrien – something many fans could not understand, or accept.

Did he have a problem with P.K’s big personality? In cases like these, coaches are expendable. But Subban is a player who transcends his talent; he is a player whose heart and soul goes into every game, and who shows it in his workhorse ethics and relentless efforts.

It wasn’t contract, either. Weber is going into year 5 of a 14-year contract (yes, you read that right), with an AAV of $7,857,843. Subban is going into year 3 of an 8-year contract, with an AAV of $9,000,000. Not a huge difference there, except the length (which makes this extraordinarily uneven in Nashville’s favor). With 10 years left on this contract, Weber would be 40 if he played it to the end. It’s a deep commitment to take on a contract of this magnitude, with no guarantee that the player will remain healthy, as sharp, or willing to play it to its end.

Perhaps there’s a player in mind the Habs would like to acquire when free agency begins at noon on July 1st, and wished to free salary cap. The thing is, they didn’t free all that much.

What about player stats? This was tweeted out and speaks pretty loudly for the quality of both players:

In stats, both players recorded 51 points this season, with Subban’s coming mostly in assists while Weber got 20 goals (14 more than Subban). Yes, Weber’s 14 power-play goals, if he can repeat that kind of strength when the new season begins, will be a welcome addition. But the trade-off is highly uneven.

But it’s painfully obvious this trade was not about talent; while Weber is, most definitely, an excellent player, he is 4 years older than P.K., in his declining years, while Subban is hitting his prime. In hockey, age 27 is a big difference from age 31.

In a press conference after the trade, Bergevin was unable to provide a good justification as to how this makes the team better. Speculation is rampant (as it always is), but despite Weber’s size, leadership (he was named captain of the Predators in 2010), and experience, it’s hard to see this as anything but a political move.

Reaction to the trade has been swift, and intense:

That was the general disbelief of fans. There was anger, too. And shock.

Interviewed by phone, Subban’s answers revealed a lot more than his former GM’s; when asked by Adam Vingan (who covers the Preds) whether he felt unwanted by the Canadiens, Subban replied:

 

While I was a Montreal Canadien, there were nothing but fantastic times for me. I have to say that out of all the fan bases within the NHL, that the Montreal Canadiens fans and community and the province of Quebec have probably embraced me more than any other player has felt in any other city. It’s give and take. I’ve done a lot of things in that community, and they supported me since the day I was drafted.

I’ve always felt wanted by the fans and the community there. On the business side of things, the Montreal Canadiens paid me a lot of money two years ago to do what I do for a living. At the end of the day, I just wanted to come in and do my job. But obviously right now, I’m going to a team that wants me. The Montreal Canadiens felt that they had to take it down a different path.

There it is – and that’s an extremely disturbing statement by a player who has achieved superstar status on the team which just traded him. There’s no need to read between the lines there. Even more:

“I’m just happy,” Subban said via telephone. “I feel good knowing that a team has moved someone because they want me… I’m just happy to be in a situation where I can excel and feel good coming to the rink every day, [I feel good] about myself, about the team, about my position.”

Reading those words, knowing what he’s truly saying, is sad; he should have been rewarded for the 30+ minutes he put in each game, for the never-say-die efforts he delivered, and for being a pivotal player on the Habs even in their decline this past season. That he was made to feel anything less is infuriating.

It should be noted that Shea Weber, who is – in his own right – a talented, strong defenseman, should not be penalized by Habs fans for his presence on the blue line in lieu of Subban. Clearly it will be difficult for him, and he stated as much in his press conference:

Weber knows he’s in a tough position, coming into an arena where the fans are not shy about expressing their feelings, and knowing how wildly popular his predecessor is in Montreal.

But there’s only one way we can process this, and it isn’t to scapegoat Weber, or the Habs (I’ve seen many people “threatening” to become “former” fans of the team, or already pledging that they will no longer watch any of the games; many of these are the same people who pledged not to care anymore when the coach was not fired midway through the 2015-16 season as the team began to descend in the standings).

I can only hope that when he hits the ice for the first, and the 82nd game (and hopefully beyond that, in playoffs), Shea Weber is embraced as warmly as every other Canadiens player on the ice and given a fair shot to show us his talent.

And though it will take a while for us to process the shock of P.K. Subban being anything but a Habs player, I am extremely thankful for the years in which he did play in the bleu-blanc-rouge. He is an exciting player, he is someone to watch, and he adds a dynamic to the games that we will miss fiercely.

But P.K. Subban has also created a new generation of fans in younger people, he has – and will continue to be – a model for kids around the league, and his enthusiasm for the game will, no doubt, continue to add to the culture of the NHL no matter where he plays.

So I thank him for being with our team, and for increasing my love for the game. And I speak for all of us at All About The Habs when I wish him the best in Nashville, much success, and what will certainly be a continued upward swing in his very lucrative career.

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One Response to Habs Shocker: P.K. Subban Traded To Nashville For Shea Weber

  1. Excellent analysis, and a very classy closing. Yes, PK will be missed. But life will go on. The Habs will go on. I will cheer PK the first time he takes the ice against his former team, but not near as loud as I will cheer the day I hear Marc Bergevin has been sacked.

    Joe July 4, 2016 at 10:49 pm Reply

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