Canadiens Fans Get Closure as Ex-Hab Subban Retires

Ex-Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban has admittedly not been with the team for over a half-decade. Subban’s retirement announcement this week still hit the organization and its fans pretty hard, though. What else would one expect, based on the impact he had while he was still in a Habs uniform?

Subban One of Canadiens’ Big Three

A James Norris Memorial Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman (2013), Subban represented one of the big three alongside Carey Price in net and Max Pacioretty up front while he was in town. Some may argue the Canadiens as an organization wasted a golden opportunity gifted to them by the drafting of ex-general manager Bob Gainey (Subban being a 2007 second-round pick) by failing to capitalize and win a Stanley Cup in their coinciding primes.

P.K. Subban New Jersey Devils
Ex-Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That may be true, but there is little denying the Canadiens were still relatively successful, reaching two Eastern Conference Finals during Subban’s tenure. And the fact that one came in 2009-10, Subban’s first season with the team, during which Jaroslav Halak was the playoff hero, speaks to how it wasn’t all Price (like it mostly was the next time around in 2014).

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Of course, it wasn’t all Subban either. He also had the benefit of Andrei Markov, arguably the Habs’ most important defenseman over the last two decades, as his primary defensive partner starting that 2013-14 season, his third-last with the Canadiens. Maybe it wasn’t all Price that season too, with Subban actually leading the Habs in playoff scoring (14 points in 17 games) in a run that came to a halt against the New York Rangers in Round 3, with the Habs’ chances admittedly taking a nosedive as soon as Chris Kreider crashed into Price in Game 1.

Subban’s Superstar Personality

The notion that “it wasn’t all Subban” can take on another meaning, as he became a polarizing figure in Montreal, largely after the Shea Weber trade. There was little reason to before anyway, especially with Subban having pledged $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital literally just a year before.

However, the trade became an inflection point in how fans perceived Subban. Many felt Weber would provide a stabilizing presence both on defense and in the locker room, his stoic leadership sharply contrasting with Subban’s electric personality that constantly drew in everyone’s attention, which suddenly became an euphemism for him being a selfish distraction.

Subban getting traded to the New Jersey Devils after three seasons with the Predators only reinforced those rumors. However, consider the Predators boasted a defense corps that also featured Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, who was approaching unrestricted free agency status. With the Predators dropping out of contention for the Cup, it made sense to trade someone to make room for Josi’s new contract. Subban, with the biggest cap hit ($9 million, eventually to be eclipsed by Josi’s $9,059,000), made the most sense.

Nashville Predators P.K. Subban
Ex-Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban – (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

What are we really talking about here, anyway? The fact that because Subban played for three teams in his NHL career instead of Weber’s two that he was a problem child? According to at least one ex-Canadiens teammate, Dale Weise, those rumors were patently false. People are simply going to believe what they’re going to believe.

Subban vs. Weber

The bottom line is a) it takes two to tango and, just like the Canadiens traded Subban for a reason, so did the Predators Weber and b) if Subban was such a cancer, the Predators wouldn’t have been able to reach Round 3 and then the Final for the first time in franchise history his first season there.

Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
Ex-Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, many saw the trade as one of ex-general manager Marc Bergevin’s missteps, maybe his biggest, as he traded a young, puck-moving defenseman who was still in his prime for a defensive stalwart four years older exiting his. Subban’s early success with the Nashville Predators, including another Norris nomination, further fueled the argument.

Related: Canadiens: Marc Bergevin’s 5 Biggest Mistakes

However, with the Canadiens reaching their own Final under Weber’s leadership in 2021, that narrative was proven inaccurate, too. Ultimately, the trade itself can be put to bed. At this point, to see it as anything other than a wash does a disservice to the careers of both men, especially seeing as those careers are each over for all intents and purposes, Weber unofficially retiring himself before last season.

There had been a crazy idea of Subban returning to the Habs. With the Canadiens where they are though, clearly rebuilding and in a position to give significant ice time to their young defensemen, it made little sense to so much as entertain the notion. Entertaining though it would have been.

That much should never be in doubt, alongside Subban’s immense significance to Canadiens fans one way or another and to the city of Montreal itself. He meant a lot while he was with the Habs. He continues to mean a lot, even in retirement. To say he will be missed would be inaccurate. Still polarizing, Subban will nevertheless continue to be loved for the Hab he was and the honorary Montrealer he will forever remain.