It is difficult to make an unbiased and level-headed assessment of a trade when you are being too emotionally attached to the player(s) being traded away while lacking firsthand knowledge of the player(s) obtained in return, putting your trust in hearsay or worse, believing analytics’ rhetoric. When you get to watch a player just about every game of his career for 7 years, and compare that to a player who you can count on one, maybe two hands the number of games you’ve watched play, it’s very hard to have a reasonable comparison of their value.
Of course, we’re referring to the never-ending story of the biggest trade of this past summer, the one which saw Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin ship fan-favourite P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for one of the best defensemen in the league in Shea Weber. At a time of year when fans should be debating the upcoming World Cup of hockey, the NHL teams’ rookie camps and their main camp coming soon enough, you are right to say “not that again”! I fully agree that it’s been debated and talked for way too long but you know what? Subban will try to ride the popularity wave for as long as he can.
Why? Because the Montreal Canadiens and their market made Subban what he is today. They provided the platform, the exposure that he needed to launch his brand, to get in front of the media and fans in Canada, by playing for the most popular and followed franchise in the country, in the world! Don’t you be fooled: the Canadiens don’t need Subban to sell their brand name, their merchandise. If fans don’t buy a jersey with #76, they will buy one with #31, #11 or #27 instead… just like they bought #10, #29, #19 before!
Subban keeps talking about Montreal, where he knows he is well loved. He keeps on coming back to the City that traded him. Why? Yes, I do believe that he has attachments to Montreal, that he genuinely loved it. But he also needs the hits, the exposure, for people to talk about him in order to keep his side businesses atop. Subban is a good speaker. He is a very charismatic individual and it’s easy to fall in love with him. I don’t believe one bit that he’s abusing it to better serve his own purpose. I believe that he is genuinely a good person. But don’t think for a minute that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, that this exposure isn’t necessary for him to make additional revenue and stay popular, not to say relevant on the business side.
You see, Subban doesn’t need the Predators for his success, at least not as much as the Predators need him to sell the game in a non-traditional hockey market. Shea Weber was the stereo-typical hockey player, ala Larry Robinson, Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, Bob Gainey… excellent leader but rather reserved and quiet. That doesn’t sell tickets to non-traditional fans as much as a guy who will go out to karaoke bars singing Johnny Cash!
If facts fail, try politics
I’ve claimed all along that this was a hockey trade, and a business trade. A hockey trade in the sense that the Canadiens have been working with Subban to try to cut the turnovers, repeatedly asking him to get rid of the puck sooner in order to improve his horrible turnover statistics, too often costly if not because he had the best goaltender in the league saving his bacon more often than not. The writing was on the wall when his own teammates didn’t vote him as their representative for the Clancy award, after he committed to donating a whopping $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Forget the politically correct words about PK after he got traded as to me, this vote spoke very, very highly on what the players thought of Subban and his antics, of his team spirit.
Those who hate that trade will try to compare Weber to Subban but if they have one bit of common sense and mostly, of self-respect and integrity, they will recognise rather quickly that you have here one of the best all-around defensemen in the entire NHL. Not at all flash and dash like Subban, but physical, passing the puck out, making the safe play while being extremely physical from his 6-foot 4-inches and 236 lbs frame. What he does have in common with PK is that he has an even better shot than Nashville’s new player, and will also be a force on the powerplay. That’s where it ends though.
Not wanting to single out Stock Guy with this tweet as he is one of my most loyal followers in spite of us disagreeing on several topics, but what he is saying here keeps coming up, or so it seems. It seems like many Habs or Subban fans seem to think that PK is a superior player to Weber. Living in Western Canada myself and talking daily with other westerners in person or online, it seems obvious that there is a huge disconnect between that line of thinking and those who have watched Weber play regularly.
Some think that Weber being on Team Canada’s top pairing, named assistant-captain, a first ballot unanimous nomination to the team while PK wasn’t even selected at all is nothing but politics. Yet, most people around hockey seem to favour Weber over Subban and it’s not even close. Why do the likes of Doug Armstrong (STL), Marc Bergevin (MTL), Rob Blake (LAK), Ken Holland (DET), Bob Murray (ANA), Mike Babcock (TOR), Claude Julien (BOS), Barry Trotz (WAS) and Joel Quenneville (CHI) all preferred Weber on first ballot? Think about it. It’s not politics. Those are very knowledgeable and successful NHL hockey minds and they certainly aren’t armchair GMs typing from their basement wearing nothing but their underwear!
Who wins this trade?
The Canadiens got what they needed. They avoided a very dangerous six year no-movement clause contract with a player who was doing what he wanted on the ice without that security yet! Yes, they traded away the youngest of the two players but they received the better player of the two at this point, and possibly for the next couple of years as well. They got some much needed leadership in Weber, winner of the Mark Messier award, the best leader in the NHL last year. They didn’t lose any production offensively from the right point, but they got much better defensively and on the physical and intimidation aspect of the game. They will be tougher to play against. Ultimately, this move will help them win more games. His 39 giveaways are nothing compared to Subban’s league-leading 106 last year, resulting in a more rested and better protected Carey Price. As we explored in a previous article, Weber’s contract is a non-issue for the Canadiens.
But why did the Predators trade Weber if he’s that good? One simple answer people: the Preds had 16 million reasons to trade their star defenseman. $8 million of which had to be paid in cash bonus on July first 2016, while the other $8 million is due on July first 2017. For a non-traditional market team, that’s a lot of cash as it’s on top of Weber’s salary! Not so much for Geoff Molson, whose Canadiens are a money printing business.
Nashville is also a winner in this because they got a young offensive and puck-moving defenseman who will replace Weber’s points. Their overall defense is superior to the Canadiens, although Pekka Rinne is not Price so he may have his work cut out for him. The Preds also didn’t have to pick up Subban’s no-movement clause so he is now moveable if need be. Off ice, Subban will be great for the city. He will be out and about and will try to get as much exposure as he can. He will continue to be a delight to reporters and fans will obviously love his charismatic personality… but it’s Nashville.
In the meantime, Price and Weber will be trying to win the World Cup together. The first practice for Team Canada is scheduled for Monday so stay tuned.
But don’t worry folks, any chance he gets, Subban will try to get his name out in Montreal. He needs it. So we’ll start the same debate all over again, with the same examples, at that time.