Hockey pundits are as whacked as hockey fans
It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet, and the P.K. Subban trade to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber is still reverberating like the aftershock of an earthquake, not only in Montreal, but the tremors are being felt in every rink of the NHL. NHL fandom has exploded on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. Everybody has an opinion and they are not shy of sharing how they feel.
First it was BrExit not even a week ago, and now it is Subbanexit
We have seen the past week the effects and the opinions of economists, politicians, investors, business leaders and the average citizen on the street, all having opinions about BrExit and how awful it all is. The few sane BrExit advocates continue to be demonized by people who cannot comprehend how this vote even went the way it did and some even want to undo the democratic process to do it. That is not going to change the reality. BrExit is what it is. Get used to it. It is the new reality.
The new reality in Montreal is that Subban is no longer a Hab. He is gone. Get used to it. It is the new reality. And, no, I am not in cahoots with the Habs management and I am not on their payroll. I am a fan. A “team” fan. There is a difference between being a fan of players, to being a “team” fan.
The story goes that Subban was being spoken of as a possible trade during the spring and at the draft
The GM of the Habs, Marc Bergevin, is certainly under the microscope for this trade. It has been said that Bergevin’s career as a GM will be defined by this deal. I don’t think so. Bergevin’s legacy will be revealed and evaluated by what he does to win the cup, to bring a 25th Stanley Cup to Montreal. As it has already been stated over and over, the window is open now for the Habs to put the few missing pieces in place to contend for a cup. Carey Price, IF he fully recovers from the multiple knee injuries he has suffered the last couple of seasons, will be the last line of defense and he can only do it for so many seasons. His knees are damaged goods. How good will he be, no one knows for sure. But the Habs have him in net. They have a decent defense and they need a couple of power forwards. IF they get the right pieces, they will be able to contend. Both Bergevin and Therrien, the coach want a dependable anchor on the defense, and that is why this trade took place. Subban was not the guy. Subban was NEVER going to be that guy. He is too flashy, too offensive and because of that he is a defensive liability. He cost the Habs games by his breakdowns in his own zone. I used to cringe watching games with Subban on the ice in the last five minutes of a period, especially the third. Well, no more of that now. That is now what the Predators have to look forward to, and they are welcome to it. Subban will not change. He is uncoachable, almost as much as Ovechkin. Some players are too skilled and talented for their own good and forget that hockey is a team sport.
I have scoured the news and the pundits are nuts and they forget one thing
Much like the Remain Campaign with BrExit, the pundits critical of this trade between the Montreal Canadiens and the Nashville Predators, are quick to point out the merits of their favorite player, Subban, and dismiss out of hand what Shea Weber and his contract bring to the table, just like the Remain EU crowd dismissed what the UK can do outside of being an EU member. The hockey know it alls all claim that the Habs pulled one of their worst trades in franchise history.
I beg to differ with the hockey pundits. The worst trade in not only Hab history but NHL hockey history was the trading of Patrick Roy to the Colorado Rockies. He was a key member of their two Stanley Cup winning teams. The Habs got a goalie everyone pretends never wore the red-white-blue. THAT was the worst ever trade. As I stated earlier, ever since the Gretsky trade from the Oilers to the Kings on 9 August, 1988 ( I remember it well, I watched it unfold while my daughter had her second relapse with Leukemia and we were at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto watching it all unfold on the TV), was the trade that said to the world, “any superstar can be traded” and that “no one is untradeable.” Everyone has their price, and so the story goes. A start can be traded, cut, released and the team carries on.
The Habs have had their history of cutting or trading or releasing former great players, especially guys who were captains. The captains alone are a list of all stars and Stanley Cup winners, and not all with Les Glorieux either! Brian Gionta was brought to the Habs by Bob Gainey from the New Jersey Devils. Who can forget Saku Koivu and his great years as a Hab and captain, who never won a cup, but won the hearts of the fans, especially with his comeback from cancer. Vinny Damphousse was a great player, and a team captain, and won the cup with the Habs in 93. Mike Keane was captain and also a member of the 93 cup winning squad. Kirk Muller (now a coach with the Habs), was captain for one season in 94-95, and was a team member of 93 cup winning team. Guy Carbonneau was captain of the Habs and won two cups with them, including the 93 cup run when he was the captain of the squad. He later joined some other former Habs on the Dallas Stars that won the cup in 99, including Craig Ludwig, Brian Skrudland, and Mike Keane. Chris Chelios was a mainstay on the defense and a great star who learned the game from one of the best ever, Larry Robinson. Chelios became captain and was traded, as previously stated for Dennis Savard.
The “Hab way” of handling players, is to move them when they are still a tradeable commodity, and get something in return for the team, and then move on. Very pragmatic, and very frustrating with fans. They have done this repeatedly with star players, captains, goaltenders, key defensive players, and even forwards. It is not beyond their scruples to move a player when they need to.
The Hab “unwritten rule” seems to be to move a problematic player, rather than destabilize the dressing room
This “unwritten” rule seems to manifest a few times a decade. I remember the dismay over Patrick Roy being traded to Colorado. The Habs seem to live and die by supporting the leadership of the team, the coach and coaching staff and rarely dismiss a coach during the season. It was that way with Patrick Roy. Tremblay the coach at the time, and a member of cup winning teams in the 70’s and 80’s (5 cups), treated superstar goalie Patrick Roy the way he handled all his players. It was a bad game, and a bad night for everyone. Tremblay left Roy in net and Roy felt hung out to dry, flipped out after the game and said he had played his last game as a Hab. Rather than fire the coach, the Habs traded Roy, and the rest is history. The Habs haven’t sniffed another cup run since Roy was traded. It has been a horrible drought of zero Hab cups since 93. Mind you it is a horrible drought for Canada. The last Canadian team to win a cup was that very same Hab team of 93.
Then the recent situation where Mike Cammalleri was traded just before the Habs played the Bruins on January 12, 2012. The trade happened as a result of remarks that Cammalleri made to the media which were translated from English to French. Cammalleri voiced is concerns about a “loser attitude” in the dressing room in how the team prepared for games. He was pulled out of the line up and traded. He was by far the most dynamic and effective forward and scorer Montreal had between 2009 and 2012. The “unwritten rule” is you can’t bad mouth your team, management, your coaches, or act in a manner detrimental to your team, and expect to remain a Hab. This happened to Roy, Cammalleri, and now Subban.
Subban had his issues, just like the EU has issues and BrExit highlighted the problems with the union, and as the UK chose to leave the EU, the Habs chose to part with Subban
There is no need to try and figure out what happened. It is a long and sordid relationship between Therrien (the coach) and Subban. They don’t seem to have clicked from the beginning. Subban was coached to play a certain way and he refused to be restrained. He would display brilliance in bursts on the ice, make risky plays that would sometimes pay of and at other times fail dismally. Over the last five seasons Subban has shown flash and flair on the ice and has wowed fans as he skates in the same manner that made former Hab great Serge Savard the graceful skater and flashy play maker on the ice in his heyday. But Subban is no Serge Savard, and he has never developed a full game. He is an offensive threat and a defensive liability at the same time. He always needed to be paired up with a great defensive player, like Andrei Markov. Subban could never be trusted to be reliable in his own end, often giving up the puck to the other team that either led to scoring opportunities for their team or outright goals, and those goals cost the Habs wins and points. THIS was a regular occurrence over the last five seasons.
Why move Subban?
Subban got moved for several reasons, and they are all good reasons.
- Montreal wanted to change the culture on the team. It was obvious when Price went down last season, and the team did not know how extensive the injury was. He was off for weeks and Condon his backup did well to keep the Habs steady for the first six weeks. When Price came back and reinjured himself, it looked like it would be quite a few more months, and it ended up being the whole season. The Habs had lead the league early along with Anaheim, and it looked good until Christmas. Then the team went into a six week free fall from which they never recovered. They were the worst team in team history than I can remember. They were awful. Some people believed it was because the team relied too much on Carey Price and did not have a good enough defense and the forwards were not good enough. They all thought the Habs just gave up. This whole demise of the Habs revealed a team with a flaw in character. The microscope got put on a lot of players. When you have a flashy player that keeps repeating the same mistakes each season, that cost you games and points in the standings, and he keeps refusing to play the team game and strategy for the game, you end up having a player who really has an attitude problem and is a bad character guy on your team. It divides the dressing room and creates tensions the team doesn’t need to have. This is another reason why Subban never got the “C” as captain, as he was too emotional and too flashy and refused to have his passion “bridled” and just wanted to play his way no matter what. You cannot have a guy like that be a captain. The lack of “character” players convinced Hab management that their defense needed a steady blue liner that was strong on D and was also good on offense as well as the PK and PP. When they traded for Shea Weber it was for this very reason, character and leadership and responsibility. These are what Subban has lacked and has not developed. Bergevin, previously added Andrew Shaw from the Blackhawks last week. He was a character player, who was a strong pestering presence on the ice for two of their championship runs. Shaw is in the same mold as Galagher and the Habs want more of this kind of character, leadership, accountability and grit.
- Montreal wanted less flash and more dash. The Habs wanted to make their team grittier and faster and bigger. They are adding these pieces little by little. Bergevin has over $9 million in cap space to pick up some free agents this summer. You can be certain there will be at least two power forwards to add to the lineup. More size, more grit, more speed, and nastiness, with less flash but more dash to go after the play and make things happen. The Habs look to improve in that area, from the back end, the defense to the forwards, and they want all their lines to be fast and to go and create plays. That means playing lines as a unit, and not in a cavalier flashy way, but as a unit. Defensive pairings will be important and they will need to be balance and each player will need to stay within the core philosophy and not deviate from it, if the Habs are to be successful.
- All the pundits forget the key to the Subban trade for the Habs – no cap hit if Weber retires ealry. Not only do the Habs get a player still in his prime, but at a lower contract rate than Subban. But what is amazing and the great part of this trade, is that if Weber retires early, the cap hit is not the Habs responsibility but it defaults back to the Preds. It is on Nashville’s books if Shea Weber does not complete his contract. THIS is a win – win for the Habs. They get a great player at a better price, and they do not have to deal with the cap hit if the player retires.
- Montreal is getting all the players with the same vision and on the same page. There is nothing worse for any kind of team, be it political, spiritual, business, sports, whatever team you can think of, you cannot have a different philosophy in order to mover to your desired destination. Once a team has a vision and wants to reinvent itself, the team management needs to pursue players that will fit that mold, that vision, that game plan. Subban, was just not a good fit. He never ever was. So best to get the most you can for him, and the Habs did, they got exactly the KIND of player they needed for their defense and for their back end of the club. Now they have a similar vision and game plan, and don’t have to worry about the flashy mistakes happening on the back end in their own zone. This is a WIN for the Habs!
- The Habs are reinventing themselves from the back to the front ends. The Habs have been knocking on the door, going to the conference final twice in the last five seasons and losing. It takes more than Price. Subban wasn’t enough either. It takes defence and the power play and the penalty kill to both be above average. It also takes production from all four lines, and consistent scoring. For all this to come together, all the players have to buy in. When Therrien was coach of the Pens and took them to the final against the Wings and lost, they had a well knit team that won a year later. Yes, Therrien was gone when the Pens won with Bylesma but the core of the team and the team buying in, and all the character players, they were the same. Bylesma just made it work even better. This can happen with the Habs.They are reinventing themselves. Just look at what Bergevin is trying to build, instead of what he had to give away to get what he needs. Subban was an expense paid in full to get the D the team needed to make a playoff run. It needs character and toughness, and they are going to have it in spades this season with Weber, Emelin, and the other D-men. Watch and see. Also the forwards are going to be even more irritating and more opportunistic. I think we will see Bergevin get a couple of blue chip power forwards that can add to the scoring punch and playmaking abilities of the other forwards. Let’s see what happens 1 July 2016.
I believe Bergevin is recreating the Habs from the back end to the front end. Subban was an expense for that refurbished back end. The type of player Bergevin and Therrien wanted is the guy that they got in exchange of Subban. Now watch how this D comes together. Watch how Kirk Muller works with the power play and penalty kill. He is a master at creating the kind of powre play that is effective. He has done it before, and he did it with the Habs a few seasons ago.
Here is what Shea Weber accomplished in 2015-2016 NHL season.
Look free agency is coming upon us. Next to the start of the season, this is the most fun a hockey fan can expect to have in the summer time!
~ Samuel M. Buick