Almost a year after they went down, the two most significant trades in recent NHL history are still shining a light on the chasm between the hockey establishment and its fans.
First, it was the “success” of the Oilers being pinned on Adam Larsson, and most recently there has been much hand-wringing about PK Subban now that he and the Nashville Predators are going to play for the Stanley Cup.
But, here’s the thing: everyone is entitled to their opinion. Hockey is a complex sport with lots of variables and it’s not very often that you can get definitive answers to any aspect of the game, including who did or did not come out ahead on a trade. So Spector and Dreger can be wrong all they want.
What I do take issue with, however, is the notion that they speak for the vast array of hockey fans, whether in a given hockey market, or across the country, and sometimes even the entire league. We have seen a similar thing here in Vancouver, with people like Trevor Linden (or his stenographers in the local media) purporting to say that fans wouldn’t support a rebuild. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.
There’s a certain arrogance there that goes beyond the self-confidence required to put your opinions to paper/screen. The arrogance is in the idea that these pundits have been anointed as the tribunes of the hockey establishment; that they alone hold the key to the fount of accepted wisdom. I mean, what else are you to take from this:
Conduct a poll of 200 hockey men, and it might be unanimous: Edmonton got what it needed in that deal, and giving up Hall was well worth it.
Because, you see, Spector talks to “hockey men” all the time. He is your gatekeeper. And he knows them so well, that he doesn’t even have to actually poll those 200 hockey men. Adam Larsson was the key to getting the Oilers to the playoffs and winning this particular game against the Ducks.
Contrast this to, say, how that same hockey media treats a guy like PK Subban.
Here you have Ray Ferraro jumping in to say that hey, hockey is a team sport. You can’t just give Subban all the credit like that. I mean, how can we expect a single defenceman to have the ability to shut down opposing forwards like that? Oh.
So our story so far: Adam Larsson can single-handedly win you hockey games in ways that Taylor Hall could not, and PK Subban just happened to be on the ice when two of the games best offensive players were kept off the score sheet. Yes, I’m not counting Toews. Although, I can’t believe the traditional hockey media is not singing Subban’s praises given how he was able to counteract Toews’ superhuman ability to leadership the Blackhawks to a win.
But then, the Subban/Weber trade is another one of those bellwether deals that separates the true believes from the heretics. While in many other business environments, reliance on accepted wisdom is seen as a detriment to sustained growth and innovation, in the hockey world it is truly treated like gospel.
And sure enough, there was “insider” Darren Dreger preaching from the Mount Royal on TSN 690, as transcribed by Chris Nichols at Fanrag Sports:
But you know this. If P.K. Subban played in Edmonton, if he played in Toronto, or if he played in Vancouver – any Canadian market – I think the view would still be the same. We don’t embrace that personality in Canada, I don’t believe, yet the way that they do in Nashville. Not by a long shot. He whips his tarp off and swings it over his head in celebration of that victory last night, or in celebration of anything that’s big that’s happening in Nashville, and guess what – the community embraces it. They think it’s great. It’s headline news in a positive fashion, not a negative fashion.
So I don’t think this is just a Montreal story. I think that this is a Canadian story.
And that’s where I just couldn’t take it any more.
As I said earlier, Dreger can have all the wrong opinions he wants and carry water for all the front offices he cares to.
And he does that a lot.
Like that time he ran cover for Bergevin in the face of a report from Louis Jean that Subban was being shopped:
Or when he told the world that Subban was “flat out unavailable” on June 9, 2016.
Ron Howard voiceover: He was.
Anyway, I digress. I’m used to Dreger and other prominent hockey opinion havers purporting to speak for their friends in the front offices around the league. What I could not abide, however, was him purporting to speak for hockey fans across the country.
To think that a hockey market like Vancouver wouldn’t put up with PK Subban’s “personality” is just asinine. This is a fanbase that just recently adored players like Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo. That revered the joyful exuberance of Pavel Bure scoring goals. That embraced the larger-than-life Gino Odjick. That cheered the persona of Tiger Williams. This is a market that wouldn’t embrace PK Subban’s personality?
This market would love this guy:
PK Subban on his often-criticized goal celebrations. His story coming Sunday pic.twitter.com/HBAeoPG92O
— E:60 (@E60) May 24, 2017
Heck, now that I think of it, this market would love any Subban.
If only we had one lying around somewhere.
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