The Subban Saga: Enough is Enough!

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Habs’ fans are a unique breed but ever since ‘the trade’, Montreal Canadiens fans have been divided more than ever. In one corner, you have the fans who cheer for the number in the back of the jersey and in the other, the fans who cheer for the Habs no matter who wears the jersey, no matter what number is on those jerseys. And being catalogued doesn’t sit well with either types of fans. Being called a “P.K. Subban fan” is seen as an insult to them, while others are perceived as Habs’ “apologists”. 

The gap between the two types of fans seems to have widened after the Predators’ weekend visit in Montreal this past weekend. On Saturday, after going one on one against Subban and scoring a goal for the Canadiens, Brendan Gallagher gave his former ‘teammate’ the lip-service… but why would that be?

In the post-game scrum in the dressing room, reporters asked Gallagher three consecutive questions about Subban. Trying to evade the question the first two times and move on with the Canadiens’ game, he finally had enough and snapped the third time around. He basically stated the obvious, what everybody in the hockey world knows, saying that Subban has a need for attention. Boy did that not sit well with the people who see the former Habs’ player as the flawless Golden Boy! Twitter was inflamed by even those who, not so long ago, wanted Gallagher to wear the captain ‘C’ if Max Pacioretty was traded. After all, they couldn’t vote for Weber, the guy who came back in that trade, right?

History

Not so long ago, back on November 22nd in Nashville, Gallagher and Subban got into a scuffle after Nicolas Deslauriers (not Gallagher surprisingly) ran into Pekka Rinne. Notice who Subban goes after on the left of your screen. Not Deslauriers, who was the one going hard to the net. Nope. The smaller enemy was a much better target.

After the game, Subban showed his true colours once again, taking a shot at Gallagher. But hey, that’s Subban. Looking at him leave the interview afterwards is quite telling, truthfully. People can like him or not, but trying too deny that he loves the attention would be rather laughable.

But that’s the the first altercation between the two players as it all started back in 2015, during a team practice. At the time, it was downplayed but look at Alexei Emelin, Alex Galchenyuk and Carey Price going to support and encourage Gallagher.

So cut the narrative by defending the Golden Boy as fault-free. He was given a bridge deal for a reason and eventually got traded for the same reason, whether some fans of the number in the back of the jerseys are saying. Gallagher wears the CH on his heart and plays for the logo in front of the jersey. The other, as seen in more than a few occasions, likes to hear himself talk… and Gallagher was right with his post-game comments on February 10th.

Racism accusations

In what I would qualify as a huge stretch and reaching a new low in the battle to defend Subban, those “fans” took exception to a tweet by former first round pick Colten Teubert after he came to Gallagher’s defense, posting the following on his Twitter account:

Did you know that Monday was a racist word? Not saying that it’s not ever the case but I’m well in my 50’s and I have never heard the first work day of the week, a day that everybody hates, used in a racial way. So does it mean that all the Monday Memes on the internet have a racist connotation? Does it mean that people of colour cannot hate Mondays? Talk about a stretch! Get over yourselves people. It’s two people who don’t like each other. Reaching to racism is not only a stretch, it’s desperation in trying to find any excuses to defend the Golden Boy. Guess what? I hate Mondays too! Yet, I respect people of colours and different ethnic than myself, for the most part.

Many will disagree but it doesn’t change the fact: I never disliked Subban the individual… until the post-game comments against Gallagher. The guy is arrogant and does like to have the spotlight on him and will do anything to get it too. He, in my humble opinion, cost his team the Stanley Cup last year by waking him the giant Crosby with his Listerine comments and even the Predators recognized it, putting the muzzle on the controversial defenseman.

So fans, you are completely entitled to supporting whomever you want. You want to love Subban, it’s your right. But putting your head in the sand doesn’t make the issue disappear. He is what he is. The reason why he was selected in the second round is because of it. The reason why he was signed to a bridge contract is not because of his talent, but because of the doubts management had about his relationship with teammates and being a team player. Ultimately, he was traded for the same reason prior to his No-Movement Clause kicked in, which would have tied the Canadiens’ hands for eight long years. Like it or not, he wasn’t liked in the dressing room by a vast majority and it’s because of antics like the ones we’ve seen this season.

In the meantime, Habs’ fans will keep on cheering the Canadiens. Go Habs Go!

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Rebuild… Retool… Resomething!

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With just over five weeks to go before the NHL trade deadline, we have reached the time when some teams are already thinking about what to do in order to become competitive again. Unfortunately for the Montreal Canadiens, they are one of those teams and the thought of the Habs being out so early has many fans and media members steaming at the collar… with reason.

And this tweet by Brian Wilde of Recrutes.ca, quoting Elliott Friedman, has the fanbase stirring prior to the game against the Washington Capitals.

It makes you wonder though… are Carey Price and Victor Mete really untouchable players on the team? In my humble opinion, they are also very much touchable, even Price if, for nothing else, because of his contract.

As a matter of fact, in my opinion again, anyone not named Jonathan Drouin should be considered touchable. Drouin is a very talented and young local product, and it looks like Marc Bergevin paid a high price to get him from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Local, young and talented players are difficult to get and we have touched before, on this very blog, on the importance of having local talent on the Canadiens, a very unique market. They paid a high price for Shea Weber as well but unlike Weber, Drouin’s best years are ahead of him.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bergevin’s best asset is Max Pacioretty. The Habs would get a great return for their captain, who is still under contract for one more year with a cap hit of $4.5 million. If he is offered a return anywhere close to what the Colorado Avalanche got for Matt Duchene, Bergevin cannot pass on trading him.

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Max Pacioretty is a likely candidate to be traded

While we know that Bergevin has always supported Carey Price (remember the grocery store comment), the fact that the goaltender is scheduled to take $10.5 million of the team’s cap hit for the next eight years starting next season should be enough to make him consider testing his value on the market, at the very least. Is Charlie Lindgren the caliber of Price? Absolutely not. But he is ready to take the next step in his career and paired with a quality veteran backup, goaltending wouldn’t be a big issue, particularly if the team improves on other weaknesses.

Would he dare trading Weber after giving up on P.K. Subban, a fan favourite? Again, I’d say that it would depend on what he can get in return. But in my opinion, Weber will be kept no matter what. If Pacioretty is traded prior to the draft as I’m anticipating, the team will need a new captain and while Brendan Gallagher is also an excellent candidate to wear the “C”, Weber would be even more. Why? Because when either of them stands up and speaks, teammates are more likely to listen to Weber. He has this presence and respect from everyone. You need some quality veterans to lead by example, as the Edmonton Oilers finally realized. Having said that, if a team is willing to pay the big price for him, then pull the trigger.

There are some glaring holes in the Canadiens’ line-up, everyone who knows a little bit about hockey can see it. But there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Bergevin tried to improve his team at the centre position. He’s not a dumb hockey man, as some around Montreal seem to think. But he was unsuccessful doing so and that is his biggest failure since taking over the team. Trading a couple of veterans would be the fastest way to replenish the blue-chip prospects’ cupboards while filling key holes in the organisation, the centre position being one.

Team’s best trade candidates

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Tomas Plekanec could be gone by trade deadline.

Prior to trade deadline, the Canadiens’ best trade candidates based on fair return is pending UFA Tomas Plekanec. If a team knows the importance of quality depth at the centre position, it’s the Canadiens and while he’s not the offensive player that he used to be, Plekanec is an excellent defensive and responsible centre who would play a key role, particularly on a third line. He does carry a cap hit of $6 million so the Habs might have to eat some salary to help a contender pull the trigger, but the return should be excellent because of the position that he plays.

 

Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, Shea Weber, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are the team’s best assets for potential trades, but they would get best value during the off season. Why? Not only are they the team’s best players but only Price has any say in where they could be going with his full non-movement clause. It’s then up to the highest bidder with any team in the NHL and everyone has cap space in the summer, not so much at trade deadline. Put quality players and add bidding wars between teams and you have the recipe for a good trade return.

No matter what happens from now on, Bergevin cannot miss on any major trade from now on. He cannot waste his best assets without getting full value in return. The team that he built is underwhelming and under-performing and even Geoff Molson’s patience has to have its limits. The Canadiens’ GM is playing big from now until the trade deadline as what he does will likely decide if he will be the one getting a chance to rebuild, retool or resomething this upcoming summer. Go Habs Go!