By Jim Diamond
Several different cities can be included in the conversation of where hockey’s biggest stage is, but if that conversation were to be had, Montreal would have to be in running for that fictional award. Nashville will probably never be in that discussion, but it is certainly no stranger to glitz, glam, and the entertainment spotlight.
In Montreal, Canadiens players are under the microscope 24/7, in two different languages to boot. Stanley Cups are expected, and when they don’t come, the natives get restless.
Now P.K. Subban will be calling 501 Broadway home for 41 games per regular season and what Predators management and fans hope to be many more in the postseason. In a town full of them, a new star has metaphorically been born in Nashville.
This isn’t a knock on Shea Weber, but about all he has in common with Subban is that they are both right-handed defensemen. While a star and the face of the Predators, he was happy to fly under the radar, just coming to the rink and doing his job then going home.
On the ice, there is no question that Subban is one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League. That will not change, and with the supporting cast in Nashville on the whole being better than what he had around him in Montreal, the argument can be made that Subban may shine even brighter in Predators gold.
But he isn’t just a hockey player; he is a showman as well. During his introductory conference call with the Nashville media Wednesday afternoon, Subban wasn’t afraid to let that personality shine. When asked about the existing talent on the Nashville blue line, Subban gave an indication of what a delightful human being Predators general manager David Poile acquired.
“Aside from them being outstanding defensemen and great defensemen, I’d have to say now with an acquisition of myself, and before they were pretty good looking with Shea Weber, but I think they got a whole lot better looking now, so we might have the best looking d-pairing corps in the league,” Subban said. “What do you think of that?”
Subban, who essentially lost an organizational faceoff with Habs head coach Michel Therrien, will be allowed to be himself in Nashville. Therrien once banned Subban from his post victory triple-low-5 celebration with goaltender Carey Price. Seriously, this coach thought that such a celebration was an affront to the game of hockey.
When the fun police run amok, everyone loses. There’s a difference between having fun celebrating with your teammates and showing up your opponents.
During his Wednesday afternoon press conference, Poile sounded as if he will be wearing a Subban jersey to games instead of his standard-issue business suit.
“I’m excited,” the normally stoic Poile said. “I really am excited. I think it is fantastic. Every game I’ve ever watched, P.K. Subban, I mean the guys will probably kid you in hockey operations, they will say, P.K. Subban is my favorite player. I’m sitting there going, ‘Did you see that, did you see that?’ I’m a general manager, but someday, I would like to be a fan. And this is a guy that I would pay money to see. He’s exciting to watch. He does something every game. He competes every game. He shows up every game. I think it is going to be dynamic.”
With an endorsement like that, Subban can triple-low-5 Pekka Rinne, Gnash, Craig “Partner” Baugh, and the beer vendor in Section 101 if he so wishes.
The most famous stage in downtown Nashville is located inside the historic Ryman Auditorium. But when the Predators take to the ice this fall, there’s no question that Subban will bring more eyes and attention to the big building just a couple of blocks to the Ryman’s south.
Heck, he may even come all the way upstairs to triple-low-5 the overly enthusiastic spotlight operator over the pressbox. Without a crabby coach holding him back, there is no telling what Subban may do in Nashville, on, off, or even above the ice.
PK and Shea play the game differently. Use all the stats you want, and you can prove pretty much anything you want – just depends on what you are trying to prove. The question is will each player fit into their new locker room and will the coaches and players find a way to work well together with their style of play. (Fans of) Montreal “expect the Stanley Cup every year” (which franchises don’t?) and the natives get restless. Since 1993, eh, then they have been mighty restless? And what was it once in the 1980s? The era or Montreal being a consistent Stanley Cup contender is long past – but it may be rekindled if they bring the right mix together. Nashville, too. It is a team sport and every cog in the system helps or hinders.