Stu Cowan: P.K. Subbans Montreal roots remain strong even as a Devil – Montreal Gazette

Stu Cowan: P.K. Subban\s Montreal roots remain strong even as a Devil - Montreal Gazette
Habs place Drouin on IR, call up Hudon
“Its always overwhelming to come back because the love and the support is so strong,” former Canadiens defenceman says.

Before facing the Canadiens for the first time as a New Jersey Devil, P.K. Subban met the media Saturday afternoon at Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton hotel and — as usual — answered questions thoughtfully and articulately for 16 minutes while dressed stylishly in a light brown vest and pants with a crisp white shirt and dark brown tie.

The first year following the trade, Subban played great hockey as the Predators reached the Stanley Cup final. But by the end of his third season, Nashville was ready to move on and this time his exit wasn't marked with blockbuster deal. The Predators needed the cap space so he was shipped off to New Jersey for a pair of prospects and a couple draft picks.  

Earlier in the day, Subban was dressed much more casual in a Devils sweatshirt when he made a quick trip to the Montreal Children’s Hospital to visit a patient who hasn’t been doing well recently.

“We had a patient, Sandrine, who was actually part of our Inspired by the Brave (program) that we started with the P.K. Subban Foundation,” the former Canadiens defenceman said. “She’s not doing too well. Usually in these situations on a game day I usually spend most of my time at the hotel. But my team does such a great job of keeping their pulse on things going on. I’m not here, so I don’t know everything that’s going on. I had an opportunity to head over there. She’s not doing too well, but hopefully we can get a big win for her tonight and make her feel a little better.”

Subban was held off the scoresheet Saturday night while logging 23:47 of ice time, but the Devils did win the game 4-3 in overtime.

It's fair to say that Montreal lost the first act. From the public-relations battle off the ice to the product on the ice, Subban had the edge. His Predators contended for the Stanley Cup and his loyal fans in Montreal longed for the days when he wowed them night after night at the Bell Centre. 

“I spent some time with her father and brought her a jersey and she seemed really happy about that,” Subban said about his hospital visit. “The coolest part is her writing ‘hockey tonight’ on her iPad, which is pretty cool. It’s unfortunate to see a child like that, but we’re all praying for her.”

Off the ice, Subban has reportedly taken on a more senior player role in the Devils locker room compared to his time in Nashville or Montreal. There are fewer reporters' microphones in his face on a daily basis and he seems less the polarizing figure that he was accused of being in the past.

After the Canadiens traded Subban to the Nashville Predators in the summer of 2016 in exchange for Shea Weber, he kept his pledge from 2015 to raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. At this year’s NHL Draft in June, the Predators traded Subban to the Devils in exchange for two prospects and two second-round draft picks.

The man-mountain defenceman has worked his way into the hearts of fans with his play. He's healthy this season and it shows. The power play, which was among the worst in the league last season, finally has some mojo and Weber is largely responsible for piloting that unit.  

Saturday night’s game against the Canadiens was only Subban’s fourth at the Bell Centre since being traded the first time. The Predators had a 2-1-0 record against the Canadiens in Subban’s first three games back in Montreal and he had three assists.

In the beginning there was a lot of anger over Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin's decision to trade the team's most popular player and the 2012-13 Norris Trophy winner. Wearing his jersey to the arena — for some — was a sign of protest against Habs management.

The Devils and Subban have gotten off to a slow start this season. The Devils have a 7-8-4 record after Saturday’s win, while Subban has 2-3-5 totals and is minus-6.

There is however, one clear winner that we can identify already — the Montreal Children's Hospital. Subban's commitment to them has never wavered since the day he pledged to raise $10 million dollars and they put his name on the atrium.

Inspired by the brave was created by @pksubbanfoundation to tell the stories of patients at @lechildren Sandrine was one of our first stories.Sending her love, & praying for her & the rest of the children at the hospital.Sandrine said it best.Bravery for me is never giving up- pic.twitter.com/krRky8ZSeA

“Some seasons you start off hot, some seasons you don’t,” Subban said. “That’s just the way it is. But there’s 82 games that got to be played. I still believe that with our team — I’m sure there’s a lot of people that doubt us — I still think our team is going to make the playoffs. I really believe that. With the way we play, when we play consistently, we’re a tough team to beat.

The third act — how does this deal look a few year from now — is to come. At age 30, Subban is four years younger than Weber. Will Weber play until the end of his contract? Will Subban remain a top defenceman in the NHL? 

“Personally, I think that there has been like an adjustment to our systems and stuff like that,” Subban added. “But I feel like I like where my game is and continuing to just grow and get to know my teammates better, understand guys tendencies and how they play. Those things can take a little bit longer. If I compare it to Nashville, when I first got there it was kind of a similar thing. The only difference was I was injured for a bigger part of the first part. But when our team figured it out, we figured it out and we ended up in the Stanley Cup final. So I think for our team, we’re continuing to learn every game, we’re continuing to get better. But we do have a lot of young players and we knew that going into the season. For me, I’m just trying to have a level of consistency every night for our coaching staff and for the team in hopes that that helps us with our growth.”

Things appear to be improving as he's settled into his new surroundings and role in New Jersey. But Habs fans looking on can't help but wonder if the magic he once had in Montreal is all used up. 

Une belle rencontre ce matin 🤩Look who got together this morning 👋#IMFC #AllezMTL pic.twitter.com/KdIlXLaa6Y

That momentum seems to have carried over to this season as the team has played with a never-say-die spirit. Down two goals? They've been there and they've shown they can come back and win. 

This was a short stay in Montreal for Subban since the Devils played Friday night at home, beating the Penguins 2-1, and only arrived at the Ritz-Carlton around 2 a.m. They were flying back to New Jersey immediately after Saturday night’s game.

Even today at the Bell Centre — three and a half years after P.K. Subban was traded — you don't have to try that hard to find a fan sporting a No. 76 jersey.

Subban, who got a chance to meet new Impact soccer coach Thierry Henry on Saturday morning at the Ritz-Carlton, was asked what he misses most about living in Montreal.

“Oh, man, that’s a great question,” he said. “I miss a lot of my friends. A lot of the relationships that I built since I was drafted, a lot of great people here that I still keep in touch with, clearly. But I miss them. That was the toughest thing about the transition was just not being able to see the people that I leaned on every day, that I relied on every day.

The other reason for Habs fans to feel better about the trade these days is that on the ice things aren't trending in the right direction for Subban.

⁦@NJDevils⁩ PK Subban arrives to meet media at Montreals Ritz Carlton Hotel #Habs #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/QY1oG5eCTd

“When I first got here to play in the NHL I had a lot of friends who looked over my shoulder,” he added. “I was very lucky to play here for a long time and have my fun — both on and off the ice — and have people looking out for me and steering me clear from the bad areas or the bad people. It’s in every city, right? I was very young when I came here, so all those people — whether they’re people who own restaurants, whether they’re friends, whether they’re realtors, whatever — I have friends in all walks of life and it just sucks that I don’t get to see them as much. But I’m still here … I’m still here enough.”

Weber's greatest accomplishment with the Habs over that same period was a first-round at the hands of the New York Rangers in the spring of 2017.

Subban will never be forgotten in Montreal, even though many fans at the Bell Centre Saturday night for some reason decided to boo him every time he touched the puck. It was a classless act toward a man who loved everything about Montreal, played his heart out every game and did so much good work for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. He also never asked to be traded.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

But the boo-birds at the Bell Centre are in the minority when it comes to how Montrealers look at Subban, who said he always feels welcome when he comes back to the city.

Getting someone to say the deal was a mistake, however, is becoming tougher. There appears to have been a slow shift in how fans see it.  

“I grew up a Habs fan, so I know how lucky I am to get those type of receptions because there’s a lot of players that don’t get that respect and love from the fan base,” Subban said Saturday afternoon about how he is regularly treated by Montreal fans. “I’ve said it before, I’m very privileged. It’s always overwhelming to come back because the love and the support is so strong. But I don’t take it for granted. I’ve played a lot of hockey here and I’ve done a lot of stuff here. So I’m just happy to be appreciated for the work not only I’ve done on the ice, but off the ice as well.

“That’s really where the basis of my happiness comes from coming back is just people appreciating what you do on and off the ice — and for an athlete that’s all you want.”

A lot of that comes down to Weber's leadership both on and off the ice and fans appreciate it. 

13h ago Habs place Drouin on IR, call up Hudon The Montreal Canadiens announced today that forward Jonathan Drouin has been placed on injured reserve and Charles Hudon has been recalled from the AHLs Laval Rocket. TSN.ca Staff

The Montreal Canadiens announced today that forward Jonathan Drouin has been placed on injured reserve and Charles Hudon has been recalled from the AHLs Laval Rocket.

Drouin sustained an upper-body injury in Fridays 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals. He took a big hit from Alexander Ovechkin in the second period. Drouin initially left the game but later returned for the third. Head coach Claude Julien says today that Drouins injury was sustained after he returned to the game and it was not related to Ovechkins hit but was serious enough that he will miss at least one week. 

#Habs Julien says Drouins unspecified upper body injury was sustained after he returned to the game in last nights third period. Julien adds that Drouins injury was not related to Ovechkins hit, but was serious enough that he will miss at least a week, hence IR.

Hudon play in tonights game against the New Jersey Devils. In 17 games with the Rocket this season, Hudon has nine goals and 11 points. 

Jesperi Kotkaniemi also draws back into the lineup after missing seven games with a groin injury. Paul Byron is out with an injury and Keith Kinkaid gets the start in net against his former team.