PK Subban Staying Defiantly Optimistic Amid Nashville Predators' Terrible StartNovember 1, 2016
DENVER — If P.K. Subban has always had the reputation of holding court for reporters in front of his locker, where it's come one, come all, well, court wasn't really in session on Monday afternoon.
The Nashville Predators, picked by some to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final next spring after acquiring the exciting defenseman from the Montreal Canadiens, have come out of the starting gate like a 1975, bald-tire Dodge Dart instead of the promised sleek, modern turbo roadster.
The Predators come into Tuesday's game against the Colorado Avalanche with a 2-5-1 record, ahead of only Arizona in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the player the Predators gave up for Subban, Shea Weber, has played like a hybrid of Bobby Orr and Chris Pronger for the 8-0-1 Canadiens. On Monday, Weber was named one of the NHL's Three Stars of the week, and he's currently leading the league with a plus-12 rating and tied for third in scoring with 10 points.
So far, the new-school, analytics crowd has looked like the Luddites against the old-school Weber supporters from their early proclamation that the Predators won the trade in a landslide.
So, no, it wasn't like a Jerry Seinfeld show around Subban's locker following a tough Predators practice at the Pepsi Center. The seven-year NHL veteran seemed to have an internal time clock on how long he would entertain reporters' questions, and it was made clear beforehand he wasn't interested in any about the past (i.e. anything about the Canadiens or the seismic offseason trade).
However, Subban would talk some about the Predators' future. And if his body language could be quoted accurately, it would have said, "Get your digs in now about our slow start and the Weber comparisons, you trolls. There's a lot of hockey yet to be played."
"I don't think it really matters if you come out of the gate flying or you come out slow. It's how you finish that's the most important," said Subban, whose stats entering Tuesday read: eight games, two goals, five points, minus-seven. "For our hockey club, we feel our best hockey is still ahead of us. For us, the sense of urgency is just to get better, that's all."
Subban's anti-old-school, anti-this-is-always-how-it's-been-done-in-hockey personality became a focal point for his critics toward the end of his stay in Montreal.
Even the legendary Guy Lafleur, whose off-ice night-life reputation and official nickname were never to be confused with "Wallflower," took a shot at Subban the other day during an interview with St. John's IceCaps broadcaster Brian Rogers, per AHL Report (h/t Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette):
The point is hockey is not a one-man show and that’s why they got rid of P.K. It’s a good trade for P.K. to go to Nashville because I think Nashville needs that type of player. They need a show, a showman and P.K.’s the right guy.
For us, the Montreal Canadiens, to get Shea Weber, it is fantastic because he brought in so much stability defensively and he’s pretty mature. ...
Right now, in Montreal, in the dressing room, I didn’t go there, but I’m sure that the team spirit is a lot better. And they are more positive about playing night after night, compared to last year where it seems like players didn’t like what P.K. was doing.
Predators head coach Peter Laviolette isn't interested in any damn "show" right now. He wants wins, and the lack of them so far made for a less than Seinfeld-ian atmosphere around him on Monday too.
Asked if he believes that his team's slow start might be a blessing for the longer term, on the theory that it's better to get your problems out of the way earlier rather than later (see: Pittsburgh Penguins, 2015-16), Laviolette seemed less than sold.
"I'll let you know," Laviolette said. "That remains to be determined at this point. There's no clear path to finding the ultimate success. But certainly, we've got to get things going in the right direction. You fall too far behind, and the path becomes too long."
If there was any hint of concern in Subban's tone, it might have been when discussing the difference he's noticed so far in the overall quality of play in the Western Conference compared to the East.
"It's very competitive. Probably a little faster and more physical in the West," Subban said. "It's a tougher brand of hockey. I think that's a consensus, not just my opinion. But, who knows?"
Predators captain Mike Fisher can relate some to the transition Subban is undergoing. While the trade that brought him to Nashville from Ottawa in 2011 didn't generate as many exclamation-point headlines, Fisher knows that it's still going to take a while for Subban to be...Subban in Nashville.
"He's excited to be here with our team. I got to know him some this summer, and I came away knowing that," Fisher said. "He's done a good job. He's fit in well. He's such a great hockey player, and I think our fans already love him. We really believe in our group. We haven't gotten the results so far, but we think it's coming. It's just a matter of time before we get on a roll here and playing the way we're capable of playing. We're just trying to get back to work and getting better as a group. That's all you can do."
When the interviews were over and the Preds could be Preds, Subban helped himself to a plastic container of guacamole from a catered-in delivery of food from Chipotle and started to laugh some with teammates, including Fisher.
In that sense, court was back in session around Subban. But the jury is still out on how his first season in Nashville will turn out.
Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.