Weber for Subban: F-150 or Lamborghini Centenario?
I handed him a bottle of wine.
Shea Weber kind of looked at it oddly at first, before he saw the label. Predator wine. It made sense. He laughed as he signed it and handed it back to me. It was a short interaction, but a good one.
Anytime you make Shea Weber genuinely laugh it’s a good day.
I met Shea only a handful of times during his 13 year tenure with the Predators, so I can’t say I know him as a person. In fact, that wine bottle singing and a couple of short sentences when I was an intern with the Preds are really the only moments I got with the captain.
Objectively, there is no reason I should be upset with the trade that went down Wednesday afternoon. Shea Weber to Montreal in a blockbuster move for PK Subban. The Preds got a younger, more skilled defenseman who fits in with Peter Laviolette’s system. We got a Norris Trophy winner who is under 28 years old. We won this trade for the future and arguably the now.
Why then, late Wednesday night, did I feel absolutely gutted?
Growing up sucks
I want to take a moment and stress this trade should work out well for Nashville. We got one heck of player. Nashville gained a marketable personality that could help propel the Nashville Predators to new league recognition and coverage.
With those qualifiers out of the way, this trade hurt. You are saying goodbye to someone you basically grew up with (in a way), cherished and poured a lot of love into. It’s almost like when your best friend ended up going to a different high school after you all had toughed it out together in lower and middle school.
That kind of hurt.
Drafted in 2003, a draft held in Nashville no less, Shea Weber joined a talented young group of defenders that included Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Klein, Ryan Suter and Marek Zidlicky. It didn’t take long for the Predator’s brass to realize they had a budding superstar on their hands. After just 46 games in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals, where he collected 27 points, Weber was called up to the NHL and never looked back.
Weber holds the honor of the first (as of right now) and only captain in franchise history to be drafted by the Predators. He led the team to four playoff appearances and three first round wins in six years as captain.
He’s been the definition of the “Predator way.” Ask any fan or executive in the league and they will tell you when they think Nashville, they immediately think of Shea Weber. You may even think of his volcanic slap shot decimating friends, foes and twine alike. He started as a gangly, awkward kid every team in the league passed over in the first round and became a bonafide top end talent.
For all intents and purposes, Weber has been the face of the franchise since 2008.
Unlike what many Canadian media members are saying, I don’t believe Shea Weber is on his last legs. In fact, I think he will bounce back next season and have one of the best years he has ever had as a defenseman in the National Hockey League. That’s what Weber has always done: be steady in the face of adversity.
Throughout his time as a Nashville Predator, Weber grew into the face of the franchise during some of the most turbulent times a professional sports organization can go through including financial troubles, relocation threats and troubled locker rooms.
Over the past decade, Nashville helped raise not just one hell of a hockey player, but an admirable human being.
That is why trading him mattered. That’s why growing up sucks.
Growing up is also great
David Poile had an opportunity he probably never thought possible: trade a franchise defensemen for a younger franchise defenseman. Where Shea Weber is a reserved, salt of the Earth kind of guy, PK Subban is a raging fire brand of energy. These guys play the same position and can really pound the puck, but personality wise, you couldn’t get further apart.
When I talked to my friends (thank you to everyone who checked to make sure I was OK) about this trade, I compared it to trading cars. Trading Shea Weber for PK Subban is like going from a Ford F-150 to a Lamborghini Centenario. They couldn’t be more different. Some people are truck people and are going to hate this deal, some people are going to love the glam of having an exotic sports car.
They are just different.
Personally, I don’t think David Poile would have made this trade a few years ago. Not because Weber was younger and not ‘regressing’ (a term I am hating more and more these days), but maybe because you don’t give a teenager a sports car when they are first learning how to drive. Similarly, Nashville as a franchise and as a market wasn’t ready to handle someone with the star-power of PK Subban. In fact, I would probably argue Nashville’s citizens have repeatedly shown we prefer the blue collar life, despite being home to so many celebrities.
During the turbulent years Weber was captain, we needed someone steady in the locker room with intensity but poise. Someone that would lead by example.
We needed a F-150.
Now, however, our franchise is all grown up. We’ve proved it with our ticket sales. We’ve proved it in in the playoffs with three wins in the last four first round appearances. We’ve proved it in getting the forwards we need via trade and drafting. We’ve proved it in holding one of the most amazing sports spectacles in recent memory, the 2016 All-Star Game.
Ask any media personality outside of Chicago, and they will tell you Nashville is on the verge of making noise in the playoffs. After years and years of being in the shadows we are officially on the national radar. A marketable guy like PK Subban can take the wheel of this franchise and drive us into places we never dreamed imaginable.
We need that Lamborghini Centenario.
THE captain: Shea Weber
I’m going to get really sentimental here, so if you are good at compartmentalizing things, you may just want to skip ahead a couple of sentences. I just want to take this opportunity to thank Weber for being the foundation our team needed when our future wasn’t so bright. I was talking to my wife on Wednesday night about what this deal personally meant for me and I listed probably a dozen or so memories I will never forget about Weber. From that bombing clapper to Angry Weber, he was a marvel to watch.
I don’t believe for one minute, however, that Weber has gotten the credit he deserves for holding the locker room together all these years. Through coaching changes, financial troubles and whatever else we don’t know about, Weber was a pillar of resilience. That’s the “Predator way.”
My brother and I were discussing the trade when he brought up the All-Star Game and how he wished we would’ve known what we do now. I couldn’t agree more.
I think Nashville’s fans wouldn’t have just asked for ‘one more shot’ during the hardest shot competition. I know I wouldn’t have.
I’d have chanted for more until the sun came up.
Here are some of my favorite moments from Shea Weber’s career with the Nashville Predators.