11 months after a trade that shocked the hockey world, and six months after many had written them off as the losers of said trade, P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators advanced to the Stanley Cup Final last night. It’s the first of Subban’s career, and Nashville’s first as a franchise.
That context, far more the fact that Subban and his teammates also opted not to touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl, reminded me of the Sharks’ Western Conference triumph a season ago. Then, like Subban did last night, a pair of Sharks shook the misplaced narratives surrounding them.
Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, as I wrote last season, did in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals what they always had done in their careers, and delivered in a big moment. Each player had the resume of a proven playoff performer, yet had been consistently derided up to that point as players who “just could not get it done.”
Subban has not played as long as Marleau or Thornton, but has faced similarly misguided criticism throughout his career, and until this season, under the microscope in one of hockey’s most intense markets.
He’s a “clown.” He doesn’t “respect the game.” He’s not “trustworthy” in his own end. These and other loaded words and phrases have followed Subban throughout his career, yet have all been proven demonstrably false.
So distracting was P.K. Subban’s pregame routine that Nashville has lost four games in three playoff rounds.
So disrespectful was Subban that he cried upon receiving a standing ovation in his return to Montreal, a city in which he had donated his time and money to worthy causes.
So incapable in his own end was Subban that he took the ice on the penalty kill with the game tied and less than seven minutes to go in regulation, only to halt Ryan Kesler’s spin move at the half-wall and force the turnover that led to Colton Sissons’ game-winning goal.
Like Nashville fans have to cars adorning their opponents’ logos, Subban has smashed the narratives surrounding him this postseason, including the notion that his old team got the better end of last summer’s trade.
The Predators’ appearance in their first Stanley Cup Final and the Canadiens’ first round exit doesn’t make the deal any better or worse for either side. It does, however, clearly refute the widely accepted notion that Montreal would somehow be better in the short-term with an aging Shea Weber replacing one of the five best defensemen in the world in the middle of his prime.
Narratives offer those following the sport an opportunity to explain what we’re seeing on the ice. Yet too often, said storylines don’t make things easier to understand, but only serve to muddle what’s playing out in front of us, as they had with Marleau, Thornton, and Subban.
But now, it’s clear that those widely accepted narratives didn’t contain much truth. The truth may hurt Subban’s critics, but I’d bet it’s never felt better for Nashville fans.