From the beloved Saku Koivu to the often detested Alex Kovalev, star players in Montreal have always received just a little extra love or hate from fans and media not only in the city itself, but across the league. When a team is as polarizing as the Canadiens, their biggest players are either praised or loathed equally.
Which brings us to PK Subban. As immense a personality as he was for Montreal, and will continue to be for the Predators, the jury was widely still out on PK as a player and a person in his time with the Canadiens. Fans and media alike from all corners either loved or hated both his game and personality, and were completely split on how Subban might truly be perceived by his teammates. Some couldn’t stand the Canadiens, but loved how PK played. Others might bleed bleu, blanc, et rouge, but wouldn’t care much for his perceived “antics” or aggressive style of play.
The question out of all of this is simple: Where are PK’s detractors now?
Living on the other side of the country from Montreal, you see no shortage of viewpoints on PK Subban free from the Montreal bias. The general consensus you could draw prior to June 29th, was that PK is an extremely good defenseman, and one that can single-handedly win you games. With that said, you’d be hard pressed to find many people outside of the Canadiens’ fanbase or media who truly believed that he was in the company of the top 2 or 3 defensemen in the game – namely Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, and yes, Shea Weber.
When PK barely saw the ice during the Sochi Olympics, or was left off of the World Cup team, Canadiens supporters were incensed with anger towards Hockey Canada, it’s executives, and Mike Babcock. But while those fans cited ignorance, stupidity, and even racism as to why PK was left out, the rest of the country mostly gave it a collective shrug. This wasn’t a debate about whether or not Subban was at the level of Weber, Doughty, or Keith – that wasn’t a question. This was about how PK matched up against Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dan Hamhuis, and even Jake Muzzin.
Team Canada’s roster was released at the beginning of March, after which PK played five more games before missing the rest of the season due to injury. How then, in that time span, did he vault past Shea Weber in the collective minds of hockey media and fans?
This is not an argument in favour of trading a player who was beloved by the city for what he did both on and off the ice. It was an inconceivable trade. What this is about, is getting at how the perception of PK Subban, Shea Weber, or both managed to seemingly change so swiftly. Prior to the deal, how many people outside of Montreal would have ranked PK ahead Weber as a player today? For the next three years? Five years? Yet here we are, barely two weeks after the trade, and the overwhelming consensus is that David Poile robbed Marc Bergevin blind.
Where have these detractors gone? Have all the critics of PK’s alleged turnover-prone play, disruptive behaviour in the room, and “me-first” attitude just taken a look at a few points from analytics experts and completely changed their tune? Or was the constant criticism of PK not only about his style of play, demeanor, and the “elephant in the room”, but also the city he played in? Only when PK dons his new jersey, and starts playing for a team and market that couldn’t be less polarizing if it tried, will we start to get our answer.