Call of the Wilde: They actually did it
Published Wednesday, June 29, 2016 9:43PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, June 30, 2016 12:49PM EDT
So they did it. They actually did what they promised that they wouldn’t do. They told us that they answered the phone simply to say no, that they weren’t really listening except to say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’
It is hard to know what the truth is now and it’s going to be hard to listen to much anymore without feeling like a pawn in their game, but that’s yours as fans to absorb and tolerate, and ours as media to question even harder than we are supposed to be trained to do already.
Because they did it. They actually did it. They traded away, in the prime of his career, one of the most popular players in Habs history, and certainly the most popular in the last decade, along with Carey Price. They also traded away a player who is doing his utmost to raise $10 million for sick children in Montreal.
When Habs players on Sundays are watching NFL football, P.K. Subban was usually visiting sick children at hospitals. That’s the guy they traded. But, hey, that’s beside the point, those who have cold hearts would tell me, this is a hockey trade, this is all that matters in the business of hockey.
Great. Let’s go there shall we. Let’s talk hockey.
P.K. Subban is approaching, and is right now, in the prime of his hockey career at the age of 27. He is four years younger than Shea Weber, who many people watching on a regular basis say is looking as if his skill set is diminishing already. Pierre McGuire on TSN Radio 690 did not want to hurt a personal friend such as Weber but had to comment that there are a lot of years on Weber already and he doesn’t know how much he has left. McGuire kept saying that Weber has played some hard minutes. He added that he felt that the Predators overwhelmingly won the trade.
I believe that the Predators won the trade as well, but it needs to be broken down into components. Right now, I believe that the better player is already Subban, but I am certain that most in the hockey community disagree. One only has to look at the World Cup roster which Subban is not on, and Weber is on. My reasoning there is I believe Subban’s play was hindered by the coaching style of Therrien who did not get the best out of him.
Subban in Nashville with Josi will be an unbelievable partnership. The best way to evaluate the trade next season will be to be a Predators fan and ask yourself if Subban-Josi is a better partnership than Weber-Josi was. When Weber is retired, this is an easier side-by-side challenge when Josi is still playing with Subban.
So we have a good tight discussion at least who is the better player next season and that’s not a horrible hockey trade, obviously if you can have a good discussion on the merits of each player. There will be nights that many turn to me after a good Weber game and say so what do you think of the trade now, and I’ll answer see me in 2018.
The issue that is serious and shows it to be one of the worst deals in Habs history though, is what happens down the line, with Subban in his prime, and Weber fading.
Weber’s contract is an albatross of epic proportions. He signed for $110 million for 14 seasons in 2012. It was one of the last contracts of an era that the NHL had to end because the years of these deals just kept getting longer and longer. Weber’s contract ends in another 10 years. He will be 41 at the end of it, and many people, including the esteemed Pierre McGuire note that he is already showing the miles. Does he keep his best game for three years? Does he keep it in five years? GM Marc Bergevin spoke of Andrei Markov saying that he is 38 and that looked like a long three-year contract and he made it to the end of it. Can Weber make it 10 years? He’s already fading. The idea that he could reverse that is highly unlikely. His cap hit is $7.8 millon. Subban’s cap hit is $9 million. There’s not that much between them really. Subban’s contract ends in six years. He will finish that deal at 33. The Habs will be paying for Weber long after Bergevin and Therrien are gone until 2027, however the Preds will pick up the bulk of the penalty.
This is Scott Gomez all over again, except worse, because when the Habs made the mistake of acquiring a clearly fading Gomez, they traded away a player at least who was a first round draft choice that hadn’t proven anything. Rangers GM Glenn Sather would have been happy with the deal just to take Gomez off his hands. Predators GM David Poile no doubt imagined the same scenario playing out in three years, thinking, “What am I going to do with this Weber contract?”
But it wasn’t Ryan McDonagh who the Habs gave away, an untried draft choice who may have panned out or maybe not, but P.K. Subban who won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman, an award, by the way, Weber has not won, though he has been a finalist – back when he was in his prime. You know, like P.K. is now.
I believe this sets back the organization for a long time. The only possible outcome that works is Weber is great still this year and the Habs win the Stanley Cup. They will have a terrible time fielding a competitive team when they are at a disadvantage for a half decade having bought out the contract of Weber and yet it remains on the books to torture them. The Habs traded away Chris Chelios and then won a Cup, and fans will still tell you it was a terrible deal and they won a Cup.
At least, here I think fans will gladly accept it was a great deal if Weber can be amazing and lead the Habs to the Promised Land. Clearly, even though Subban was the Habs’ best playoff performer, somehow Bergevin didn’t see it.
From a personal viewpoint, I will just not deal with that today too much. Maybe another day I will have it in me. There are a lot of things I see daily that I leave unsaid. There’s a great big elephant in the room and in the world and there are a lot of people who are blind to it, but I see it, and for those who do see it, I want you to know that I am in your corner, that I believe that you matter. For those who don’t see it, you’re going to hate that I even reference this big elephant that we are supposed to pretend that we are beyond in the world now. I could not have written about this topic better than in The Curious Case of P.K. Subban that I wrote in 2013 and those words are more true to me now than they were then. We have a long road to walk before the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, but we can dream and good people always will.
I will miss P.K. Subban. I met him a long, long time ago when he was not well known. He was doing a spot for charity. He was so wonderful with everyone. He was personable and kind and did take after take after take. They had no idea what they were doing and it took forever. He stayed patient the entire time and never stopped smiling. I said right there on that day, this is a special man.
Years passed and I got to know him much better and I realized that on that day I had only seen the tip of the iceberg to his greatness more as a man than as a player.
I will miss him in the room. I will miss him at the Bell Centre and in Brossard. I will always look differently at the men now who hustled him out of this town whether they be players or managers or coaches, and I will always feel a little shame that I was in some way a small part of that. That it was my town that saved a terrible coach and chased away a superstar who played his best when a playoff game needed to be won and who gave to the community in the same tradition of Jean Beliveau.
It was John Swift who said, “You will know a good man has arrived in the world by the confederacy of dunces who rise up against him.”
I leave the last word tonight to John Swift.