To say that P.K. Subban was run out of Montreal might be unfair. That would imply that everyone in bleu, blanc et rouge was placing him on an Air Canada flight to Nashville from Montreal’s Trudeau Airport. I’m sure, however that Subban wasn’t surprised by the trade on June 29, 2016 that sent him to Nashville for the Predator’s defenseman and captain Shea Weber. On July 1, 2016 the Montreal Canadien’s Norris Trophy winning defenseman would have had his no trade clause kick in on the remaining 6 years of his contract at $10 million US dollars a season.
Leading up to the National Hockey League entry draft, rumors swirled that Canadien’s General Manager Marc Bergevin was looking to trade Subban because either he “didn’t fit in with the rest of the club” or because of his contract. Bergevin denied these reports but it seemed clear that something was going on. Last season there was talk that he wasn’t in tune with some of the other veteran leadership, Subban wore the A on his sweater and Captain Max Pacioretty was thought to be one of main proponents of his dismissal.
Head Coach Michel Therrien was known to rip into Subban during this past season, especially after one loss to the Colorado Avalanche when the creative skater attempted to make a play in the Avalanche zone and lost an edge while possessing the puck. The Avalanche took the puck the length of the ice and scored the goal that would go on to win the game. Therrien would go on to throw Subban under the bus the team rode to the Pepsi Center on, “ an individual play that cost us the game tonight.” Never mind that the Canadiens offense last year ranked 16 in goals for in the entire league even with offensively gifted Subban in the lineup.
I’m sure that Subban could clearly read the writing on the wall when Bergevin did not stand up to Therrien or back the Canadiens star player. Subban was playing his game, the one that the Canadiens had signed him to play. He was aggressive on the puck, maybe sometimes to a fault, he was boisterous, but that’s P.K., he was creative, he had flair and most of all, he gave 100 percent on the ice. At the end of the 82 game season when the Canadiens finished 38-38-6 and missed the playoffs without firing Therrien, Subban had to know that he was going to be on his way out. The two of them could not exist under the same roof.
It was a reminder of the Patrick Roy situation in 1995 when he fought with head coach Mario Tremblay. Canadiens management decided then as well that Roy was the one who had to leave shipping him off to the Colorado Avalanche, the previous Quebec Nordiques. How ironic is it that Therrien blew up at P.K.’s play in Colorado? It all comes full circle I suppose, especially considering that trade brought Montreal one of my favorite hockey players of all-time goalie Jocelyn Thibault. As the history books have shown us, the long list of goalies that followed in Roy’s crease were never able to replicate Roy’s success as he went on to win a Cup with Colorado.
Subban to his credit, had adopted Montreal as his new hometown. He donated $10 million dollars to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, a figure that the Children’s Hospital called the “biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian history.” The star athlete set up a fund known as P.K.’s Helping Hand that works with the Montreal Children’s Hospital and helps parents pay bills when their child gets sick. Subban was also seen many times in restaurants around town and posed with fans for pictures and stopped for autographs. The mood after the trade was described by one person on Twitter in three words: “Torches and pitchforks.”
The Montreal Canadiens are an Original Six team with so much history and mystique. I know when I took a tour of the Centre Bell, or Centre Molson when I went, the team was so proud of where it had come from. The legends that you see in the locker room up on the walls from Plante to Bouchard to Savard to Roy and in between. They even ask you if you know what the “H” stands for in the middle of the “C” in their logo. (Do you know by the way?)
The NHL awards trophies that are named for Hall of Fame players from the Canadiens. The “Rocket” Richard Trophy, the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy are all named for men who were Canadiens. The Canadiens fill the Hockey Hall of Fame with plaques, busts and memorabilia. There’s no doubt that this is one of the greatest clubs in NHL history. Not to mention the 24 Stanley Cups.
What the Canadiens have to realize however is the last Cup came on June 9, 1993 and the world is a different place – hockey is a different place. As much as we can celebrate the past and cherish those men that built the franchise, we can’t let them haunt the building. Subban’s departure is another example of running a star out just because they may not always “fit the mold.” Subban isn’t like the rest of the players and that’s okay, not every championship team is built like those old Montreal Canadien teams. You need guys like P.K. You need guys like Patrick Roy. Unfortunately the Montreal Canadiens still haven’t learned the lessons, they still hear the whispers of Richard and Bouchard and Plante. When the time comes and they realize it, it’s going to be too late. It may already be too late.