26 Jul Predators and Prey
On June 29, 2016 I got a call from Blockbuster Video telling me the copy of American Pie that I rented is 11 years overdue. Blockbuster has not been a viable franchise for several years now and I still have that copy of American Pie on DVD. I happen to own three different devices that can still play a DVD, so I would dare say I won that Blockbuster trade.
But there was another blockbuster deal that went down that same day in the NHL. A trade that saw two faces of franchises swap jerseys when Montreal and Nashville decided that P.K. Subban was worth Shea Weber.
It has unfortunately become a rarity of a situation in any sport when a trade works out for both teams, especially when they involve perennial All Star calibre players. When the Philadelphia Flyers traded Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets they received Jakub Voracek. Voracek is one of the most dangerous scorers in the game and Jeff Carter has been an integral part of two Stanley Cup winning teams… as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. Unfortunately, the Jeff Carter experiment in Ohio didn’t work out. As I said, it’s rare that these trades work out for both sides.
I know that Weber is on the wrong side of 30 but there are few better shut-down defenceman in the game. Meanwhile, Subban’s character has been called into question more times than one should have to answer to and account for, but there are few blueliners in the business who are as electric and offensively gifted as he. I sincerely believe that this swap is going to impact both teams for the better. Both Nashville and Montreal shared a slice of humble pie and acknowledged that their respective lineups had taken them as far as they were bound to get by now. Kudos to both GMs for having the kahunas to pull it off.
Why Montreal won the trade:
With Weber, the Canadiens get a drastic change in identity. He adds grit and toughness to go along with the intangibles of his leadership. And Shea Weber getting to play in the East is going to have MASSIVE implications for the entire conference. A beacon of consistency healthwise, he is likely going to play 78+ games, he brings a cannon of a shot to an already talented and potent power play unit and he will now be playing in front of the best goalie in the game (Carey Price should have won the Hart Trophy last year as well… clearly the most valuable player in the league…just like Peyton Manning’s last year on the sidelines with the 1-15 Colts… but I digress).
For the likes of Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman, Jack Eichel and Evander Kane and Auston Matthews and William Nylander, their lives all became 10% more challenging in those six games/year against the Canadiens. Perhaps the hockey world will recall Zdeno Chara’s physical domination over Phil Kessel throughout his tenure as a Maple Leaf… don’t be surprised if something similar were to occur. Seriously, I challenge you to find one player in any sport who more resembles a bear in size and stature than Shea Weber.
You might think I’m crazy for saying this but don’t be surprised to see Montreal find their way into the Conference Final this year. I believe that they are now a more well rounded team and, most importantly, they’ve brought in a winner. Perhaps no Stanley Cups to his resume but Weber has been a staple of team Canada’s blueline since 2010… and two gold medals later, there’s no better team in the world.
Or, perhaps I’m wrong about the above and it turns out that Weber is a step slower and no longer the player he has been throughout his career. If that’s the case, then Montreal is in for many more years of overpriced mediocrity.
Why Nashville ALSO won the trade:
The Nashville Predators reached the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history last season. Despite having a Stanley Cup to his name, I do not believe it was all because of Peter Laviolette’s coaching. Smashville has had the pieces in place for years on end to make a serious run at the Cup, but being in the Western Conference has always made it a complete crapshoot. These Predators teams of the past two decades have battled hard only to run into stronger teams in the end. They have always been a defensive minded team without enough pure talent up front to win games with their offence.
Nashville had bolstered their blue line year after year adding, in addition to Shea Weber the likes of Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis… oh and they had a guy named Ryan Suter for a while as well. And everyone knows that Defence wins championships…
BUT midway through the 2015/2016 season the Preds swapped out Jones for Ryan Johansen. Now, with the emergence of Roman Josi as one of the premier offensive defenceman in the NHL, it makes perfect sense that Nashville wanted to compliment him with the likes of the flashy, puck moving P.K. Subban – the Predators could be looking at a situation where they have 120 combined points from their top defence pairing.
With the addition of Subban this Predators squad will be faster moving the puck up ice and will keep a much more offensive tempo than ever before. And with Johansen and Forsberg at the front end of the ice, look for this team to really shift their focus from primarily stopping pucks from going into their own net to putting pucks into the other net. And I believe Pekka Rinne still has a couple of stellar (or at the very least, highly serviceable) years left in him to take on the likely increases in defence lapses that will be coming his way.
If truth be told, and I may be completely reaching here (especially in an even year that would suggest the Chicago Blackhawks will prevail with yet another cup) but I believe that this could be the year that Nashville gets into the finals. If nothing else, I’ll just bet that P.K. is going to be playing with a chip on his shoulder for a long time to come… and that’s a scary thought for a seasoned vet just entering into the prime of his career. Subban, if fully reaching his potential, is a Norris candidate type of guy. We will see which P.K. comes to play in Tennessee.
Hey, I could be completely wrong about all of the above. But keep in mind, regardless of what happens next year, both guys are signed for at least another half a decade. This was a move influencing the short term and the long term.
I, for one, am very excited to see how it all shakes down.
By: Eric Saltsman