Stu Cowan: Predators still look like winners in the P.K. Subban trade

Stu Cowan: Predators still look like winners in the P.K. Subban trade
If anything, his personality and brand — along with his fancy hats — have only gotten bigger since the Canadiens traded him to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Weber in the summer of 2016.

Subban’s now on the cover of the NHL 19 video game in his goal-celebration pose, has his own production company — PeeK Productions — and will host a one-hour variety program on NBCSN that will air on Jan. 25 after the NHL All-Star Skills competition. NBC Sports will also produce an original digital series titled The PK Project  that will stream across, the NBC Sports app, YouTube and other NBC Sports social platforms.

“P.K. is one of the league’s most entertaining players, and he was a great addition to our Stanley Cup Final coverage last year, where his charisma and personality were on full display,” Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production for NBC Sports, said in a news release. “P.K. is more than a hockey player, he’s a cultural explorer whose interests cross over into business, entertainment and philanthropy. We look forward to creating some memorable content with P.K.”

Another thing that won’t change is the reaction Subban gets from hockey fans, who seem to either love him or hate him — with no in-between. That was on display again Saturday night when the at the Bell Centre and Subban picked up two assists in only his third game in Montreal since the trade. Subban received a loud cheer from fans before the game when he was announced as part of the Predators’ starting lineup, but there were boos the first time he touched the puck and they got louder as the game went on.

“That’s what they should do … they should boo the other team when they have the puck,” Subban said after the game. “That’s just the way it is. It’s something that I’ve been pretty used to in my career. But I got a lot of respect for the fan base here and the organization. It’s a great place to play and for a lot of these young players they’re going to enjoy their time here while they’re here — and they got a good team.”

There is one major change in Subban’s life since he left Montreal.

“Well, I have a girlfriend now ( American ski star Lindsey Vonn ),” he said before the game. “That’s probably the biggest change. Other than that, I just continue to do my thing and continue to be myself and bring energy to the rink every day and want to learn. Those things haven’t changed, but my age has. I’m 29 now … I’m going to be 30 in May. So I’m excited just to continue to get better every year and enjoy my time in the National Hockey League.”

Subban missed 19 games this season with an upper-body injury and has 3-12-15 totals and a plus-7 in 24 games.

“There’s big pros to dating someone who has a professional sports career as well,” Subban said. “Especially going through the injuries that I’ve had this year. She’s gone through a ton, so definitely being able to talk to her about that and how she’s handled it has definitely helped.”

Subban has definitely helped the Predators, who advanced to the Stanley Cup final during his first season in Nashville and won the President’s Trophy as regular-season champions last season before losing to the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference semifinals. Subban was also a finalist for the Norris Trophy last season as the NHL’s best defenceman.

Whether you love Subban or not, the Predators certainly look like winners in the trade, especially when you add in the fact Subban is four years younger than Weber. That doesn’t mean Weber hasn’t played great with the Canadiens when healthy and he has come exactly as advertised with the quiet personality owner Geoff Molson and GM Marc Bergevin wanted.

Subban’s big personality was perceived to be a big problem in the Canadiens’ locker room, but the “attitude” — Bergevin’s word — in the room got worse after he left, leading to last season’s disaster. In hindsight, maybe Bergevin traded away the wrong guy at the time.

Bergevin’s second attitude adjustment to the locker room seems to have worked with his off-season moves last summer and Weber now wears the “C” and is the undisputed leader. The future is looking brighter for the Canadiens, but the present remains very bright for the Predators, who are one of the elite teams in the NHL.

“It’s been what, three years now,” Subban said about the trade. “So for me I’m very comfortable with where I’m at and we’re excited. I think just Montreal is an exciting place to come back because it’s a Canadian city and so much history here. It’s special for everyone, not just me.”

P.K. Subban remains a special player — whether you love him or hate him.
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