From the outset I’ve been mixed about the trade. My main misgiving is the 4 ½ year age differential between Subban and Weber. But, this is not a horrible trade.
For a multitude of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with his considerable skills as a hockey player, we’re going to miss P.K. Subban. But what is done, is done. There is no going back. Whether the team is the better or worse for Marc Bergevin’s off-season stage-managing will be determined on the ice this fall and winter. The Canadiens fan base needs to move on.
It is a given that Weber will be paired with Andrei Markov on the power play, but there’s an assumption that Michel Therrien will pair Weber with Nathan Beaulieu five-on-five. That is making an awfully big leap from the reality of the current state of Beaulieu’s development curve. Even with all of the injuries on defense last season, Beaulieu averaged 17 1/2 minutes per game. It is very large leap to think that he is ready to increase that to the 26-plus minutes he would need to match Weber’s nightly ice time. I kind of like the idea of Weber with the puck moving Markov on a nightly basis. Training camp will tell the tale.
Nobody can question Subban’s status as one of the league’s star players. You could get considerable argument though if he were annointed a ‘superstar’. In that department the Canadiens have only one. His name is Carey Price. Superstars need protection and as we’ve seen over the last three years, Price hasn’t been getting a lot of it. He and Subban were good friends, but I can easily imagine Price quietly rejoicing in the fact that he is going to have Shea Weber protecting him for almost 50% of every game, an area in which Subban didn’t particularly excel. In the past, only Emelin, when he wasn’t running around, and to some extent Greg Pateryn seemed capable of clearing out the crease for Price. If the Canadiens are to reach a Stanley Cup final over the next five years, it will be Carey Price who leads them. He can’t do that if opponents are free to take liberties in front of him.
BEHIND THE TRADE
I am convinced if that absolute ‘no-trade’ clause had not been included in his eight year 72 million dollar contract, any kind of trade involving Subban would never have even been discussed in the Canadiens front office. Marc Bergevin made Subban the NHL’s highest paid defenseman. Asking for a and eight year no trade clause should have been considered a bridge-too-far in the negotiation but Bergevin caved and gave it up. In the weeks following, he probably had some second thoughts. ‘Never” is a long time but I think Bergevin will be hesitant in the future to include something like that in a negotiation. On the other side, the fact that the no-trade clause was nullified with the Weber deal, probably made the deal for Subban palatable from the Nashville Predators standpoint.
Last winter, in the middle of a wide ranging conversation with a former Pittsbugh Penguins assistant coach, I mentioned that I could not understand why three successive Canadiens general managers had failed to consider signing Jaromir Jagr. He said, “I know exactly why” and went on to explain that while he was with the Penguins, Jagr’s wild mood swings, apparently related to his gambling successes and failures, were bringing down the entire Pittsburgh dressing room. In July of 2001, despite coming off a 51 goal-121 point season, the desperate Penguins shocked hockey by sending him to Washington in a deal for three easily forgettable prospects, Kris Beech, Michal Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk. The enduring lesson in team sports has always been no individual is bigger than the whole. There have persistent rumours of dressing room friction regarding Subban and at least some of his former teammates. The best I can ascertain, if any, the problems were only at the irritant stage; simply written off as a matter of ‘PK-being-PK’. Bergevin, Therrien and team captain Max Pacioretty have denied there was a serious problem. We have to take their word for that because little inside information leaks from today’s NHL dressing rooms. It may be considered looking for trouble, but what if minor grumbling escalated into downright animosity at some point? It’s been known to happen, especially if a team is going through tough times and tempers are frayed. Confined by the no-trade clause, the general manager’s ability to effectively deal with the issue could be hamstrung. I’m sure that crossed Bergevin’s mind in May and June as calls were starting to come in about Subban’s availability.. It’s not like Canadiens GM’s haven’t moved star players with in-house issues in the past. Right off the top, the names Jacques Plante, Patrick Roy, Mike Ribeiro and Jose Theodore come to mind.
With Patrick Roy leaving the Colorado Avalanche in the lurch by resigning as vice president and head coach in mid-August, the Michel Therrien haters have immediately nominated Roy as Therrien’s immediate successor. Forget about it. The Gazette’s Pat Hickey described Roy perfectly with the word “quitter”. Hickey seems to think Roy might find employment elsewhere despite his heavy baggage load. I don’t. Beyond being a terrible coach who has managed his team into the league cellar in almost every offensive and defensive category, Roy’s reputation is now toxic. Not even the Canadiens with their self-imposed and option-limiting language restrictions are going to give a second thought. We’ve heard of players who are coach-breakers. Roy’s obsessive need to have absolute control makes him a management-breaker. No administration in it’s right mind is going to put it’s team’s future in his hands.