TORONTO – Brad Marchand and P.K. Subban have traded words, slashes and sticks to sensitive areas during their battles within the Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens wars.
So what does the player who was arguably Subban’s arch nemesis think about the trade that sent the Canadiens defenseman to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference, and brought Shea Weber back East to Montreal?
“[Weber] is the kind of guy when you’re going down one-on-two, you go to the other guy,” said Marchand.
“P.K. is a phenomenal player. Very skilled, very flashy, does things with the puck. Webs is a phenomenal player, too. He’s the kind of guy you hate to play against every night. You go into that rink, you don’t want to play against Webs. He’s big. He’s mean. He shoots the puck so hard.”
At the World Cup of Hockey, it was hard to avoid the trade that rocked the NHL this summer. Weber is an alternate captain with Team Canada, playing front of his new goalie in Montreal, Carey Price. The Nashville Predators have a few players at the World Cup as well, including goalie Pekka Rinne of Finland, who said the surprise of the trade is still setting in.
“I was shocked a little bit. But then you realize that you’re going to get P.K., and all the potential and all the talent that he brings,” said Rinne. “I’m really excited to start playing with P.K. He’s going to bring a lot of different elements to our team.”
In turn, Price said that Weber is good for Montreal. He was rather specific about how good in a recent interview with Sportsnet, in which Price said that Weber was a better fit for Montreal than Subban was:
“P.K. is an offensive defenceman and a risk-taker. That’s made him successful, that’s the way he plays the game. He doesn’t want to change that and I respect that. I respect the way that he plays the game…his type of enthusiasm and his ability to raise fans out of their seats. That’s a special gift and something that not very many players are able to do. But the way we’re coached on our team, the way our team is structured, that’s not what were looking for. We’re looking for a steady type of defenceman that makes quick plays and is able to move the puck right away. Shea fits that bill perfectly.”
Price was asked about that assessment, and said that the differences were somewhat intangible.
“There’s not a forward in this league that wants to go into the corner with Shea Weber. He has a great one-time shot on the power play, just like P.K. does. There’s a lot of qualities off the ice that Shea has. He’s a natural captain. That shows. He’s an alternate captain here. That show’s he’s a quality leader. Those are qualities that are going to help our team,” he said.
Of course, the Canadians already have a “natural captain” in Max Pacioretty.
The acquisition of Weber has echoes of the Philadelphia Flyers’ trade for Chris Pronger in 2009: Bringing in a physical, rugged veteran captain onto a team that has a younger forward wearing the ‘C.’ Two years later, that captain, Mike Richards, was a former Flyer.
Pacioretty said he doesn’t expect to be overshadowed by Weber.
“In just the short time that I spent with him already, I feel comfortable with him in the room,” said Pacioretty.
“I think if you try and overanalyze that, you’re getting a little bit too deep into the locker room. That’s not how it works. A team is 23 players that come together. If you wear a letter, you don’t wear a letter … I don’t see a difference on how you’re supposed to lead. I don’t think it’s as big a case as it was in the old days of the NHL, when a player would put a team on his back and carry them throughout the year, and he was the guy. That’s not how it works anymore,” he said.
“The teams that have success are getting younger. And younger guys are having more bigger roles on the team, on or off the ice. Leadership by committee is what’s successful in the NHL today, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
GM Marc Bergevin said he thinks Weber will make Pacioretty a better leader. “I’m convinced he will help him a lot with his leadership. We can even see it here when he’s surrounded by the best players in Canada, in the room he’s one of the leaders. So he’s going to help Max and make him a better and better captain,” he said.
Weber said coming to the Canadiens, and putting on that sweater, is an honor. He also said that having Price there makes the transition easier.
“In situations where you’re traded and moving teams, everything is a big change. It always helps to have familiar faces. So he’s been a big help to me, and we’ve spent a lot of time hanging out together, especially in the last couple of weeks,” he said.
Did Weber read any analysis of the trade, which the majority of pundits said the Predators won?
Did he get any messages from people talking about the reaction to the trade?
“It doesn’t really matter what people say about me,” said Weber. “I’m not going to change the way I play. I’m going to go to Montreal and help the team win. I think everyone there wants to win. That’s what I want to do.”
One player that’s sure the Canadiens will excel with Weber is Rinne, his former goalie in Nashville.
“I’m 100 percent sure that Carey is going to like to play with Weber. He’s a modern defenseman who is really tough,” said Rinne. “There’s not a similar player in the league that’s that physical, that has that shot.”
That said, Rinne excited about having Subban in Nashville, and not just on the ice.
“He’s a very electric and exciting player to watch. On the ice, and off the ice. It’s good for the city of Nashville and the organization,” he said.
Roman Josi, who played with Weber in Nashville, said the Predators’ coaches reached out to him and others to explain why the acquisition of Subban benefits them.
“He’s a great defenseman. He going to add a lot of speed. A lot of skill. He’s fun to watch,” said Josi.
Well, that and he’s just fun. Josi said he enjoyed Subban’s attempt to singing Johnny Cash as a bar on Broadway.
“He’s funny. Making a good impression already,” said Josi.
In the end, the Predators and Canadiens believe they’ve helped themselves, by addition and by subtraction. Who will win the trade in the long-term? That’ll be decided in the next 82 games, and beyond.
But who won the trade at first glance? We asked noted Montreal Canadiens observer Brad Marchand?
“I think it depends on which team you cheer for,” said Marchand.
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