Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cult of Personality

When my youngest child was a pre-schooler, she was extremely energetic. All. The. Time. You'd wake up, bleary-eyed early on Sunday morning and she'd be standing there beside your bed with her fork in her hand asking chirpily, "Can you make me waffles?" Followed shortly by, "Let's go on a family outing!" Or  "I want to make my own kite. I have some string!" Ignoring her was not an option because her sheer will made her something of a force of nature. She wasn't rude or angry; just persistent and enthusiastic. She was a pint-sized tornado in a jar, and the jar was my house.

A child like that can be a wonderful gift.  It can also be exhausting. On one hand, you'll go places and do things you never imagined you would at the start of the day, and that joy can be infectious. On the other, sometimes you're just not in the mood. At those times, you just wish there was a pause button or a volume control you could press to get five minutes of peace. It's an impossible wish, though, so you learn to adapt your life and your family to embrace the little whirlwind because you love her. 

When that whirlwind leaves the family and becomes an adult in a workplace, not everybody embraces him or her. Without the love and acceptance of long, tolerant acquaintance, that in-your-face, joyful person quickly becomes annoying. Constant energy, rather than positively charging others, can become obnoxious when it intrudes on their mood. I think of this when I contemplate the P.K.Subban trade.

From a hockey perspective, I'm not sure the Canadiens got the best of the bargain. Subban is younger than Shea Weber, which, in an increasingly young league, should have been a bargaining chip for youth in return.  Subban's game is built on speed and agility which are two valuable elements at a time when speed and agility make you hard to defend and can win you a Cup. Weber is about toughness, solid positioning and a heavy shot. Those are valuable assets too, but weather differently than Subban's gifts. Both players add something to a team. Only the passage of games will determine whether the addition of Weber weighs heavier in the asset column for the Canadiens than the subtraction of Subban lightens it.

In terms of money management, Subban carries a higher cap hit for a shorter time, which is appropriate for a younger player with a Norris Trophy to his credit. Weber's $7.85-million cap hit is cheaper than Subban's in the now, and his six-million actual salary over the last four years of his deal, without an accompanying no-movement clause makes him tradeable if he's no longer in the Canadiens' plans. Essentially, money-wise, assuming both players work out the length of their contracts, the trade's a wash.

Much of the outrage surrounding the trade comes from perceptions that, over time and with repetition,  became unshakable truths. Subban was one of the players whom, if you'd asked any fan to name the Canadiens' untouchable core, would be immediately mentioned. He was meant to be a pillar during this "window" for winning the Cup. There's also the perception that management didn't appreciate him or really like him that much. And there's a perception that his race or his attention to his personal brand contributed to those feelings.

Of course, had he remained with the Canadiens, Subban would have still been one of the players around which the team is anchored. However, replacing him with Weber doesn't mean the team is adrift. It just means there's a different anchor. In the anger over the loss of Subban, people are missing the truth that Weber is an elite player as well.

In regard to management's dislike of Subban, I think there's truth in that, but I don't believe it had anything to do with race or activity outside the team. For fans, who only saw Subban's antics through carefully released video vignettes, he was a one-of-a-kind character. His big heart was on display when he dressed up as a security guard to surprise underprivileged kids. His million-watt smile lit up every crushed velvet suit and fedora he wore. He was a breath of fresh air that blew through a stagnant, cliche NHL like the first open window of spring. However, for those who spent all their time practicing and playing with him, attending meetings and travelling with him...working with him...I suspect Subban came across less like a bracing breeze and more like a tornado in a jar.

Sometimes, when my youngest child is bored or tired or not getting the attention she requires, she cranks it up a notch. She pokes her brother and sister just to get a reaction. They poke back and there's squabbling and cries of "Can you just SHUT UP?!" I can't deny, on those days, when she's finally in bed and quiet, the atmosphere in the house changes to something approaching serenity. Although we love her dearly and she adds something special to our home, it's occasionally a relief when she's turned off.

I imagine what it must be like when you work with someone so high-energy, for years at a time. At first it's funny. Then it's a bit irritating. Then, with repetition, it goes from outright annoying to unbearable. I can see how moving that person to another location, just for a change in atmosphere might be possible. I don't know if Subban's approach to life contributed to a deterioration of his relationship with the Canadiens, but I can understand it if it did.

Marc Bergevin has decided to change the direction and tone of his team by replacing Subban with Weber. It's a message to the league that the Canadiens will be bigger, stronger and tougher. They'll also be slower, more conservative and less flashy. They'll be better suited to playing the style Michel Therrien likes. Whether that style is out of step with the direction in which NHL competition is heading is up for debate. Likewise, whether the Canadiens will regret keeping the conservative coach rather than the exciting player will be analysed to death in the coming months and years.

One thing is sure: if Shea Weber helps bring a Stanley Cup to Montreal, nobody will care about his analytics performance or his foot speed. And few will give much thought to whatever P.K.Subban is singing at the karaoke bar in Nashville. Right now, Bergevin's trying to build a winning team and his decision to send the high-energy, passionate kid on a permanent time-out must be evaluated by the gimlet eye of hindsight.


Harry said...

Hi JT-Glad you are back with us,as usual your analysis is spot on in my opinion.I was not a fan of PK because I don't like the flashy hot dog type of player he is.Having been a Habs fan since The Rocket played,I have seen every type of personality come and go and have seen even the best players traded over the years.PK has talent,that is not in question,but I don't think larger than life type players can be good for the "TEAM".
Hopefully by Christmas,MT will be gone and maybe MB also,I was a big fan at first,but now I am not too sure about the GM.I was never a fan of MT and never will be,however that is just my opinion and I'm sure the Habs will survive.
I am extremely happy about Kirk coming on board !!
Good luck with your dynamo ha ha.

moeman said...

Great read and recap of where we are today with the PK situation.

UK3X said...

Nicely put JT. My issue with the trade was Bergevin' lying. I will not be fooled by his deceit ever again. I used to be a fan of his. Now I can't wait until he's gone.

Steve said...

I dont know if you hit on the problem but it seems rational. I have a differant take and have discoverd what Micheal Therien is waiting for.

Anonymous said...

Awesome read! Love PK but I feel Weber will make the Habs better and tougher to play next year. Weber's style of play fits Therrien's system like a glove. Looks like Bergevin going all in within 2 years with Price contract coming up. After that it’ll depend on if price resigns. Weber makes the Habs better now, but PK will have the longer career.