An early contender for hockey column of the season made its way to fans on Labor Day, with Elliotte Friedman chronicling The 23 minutes that shook the hockey world for Sportsnet Magazine.
The hockey Insider appeared on NHL Network Wednesday evening to discuss his work, beginning with a Carey Price quote on P.K. Subban that has drawn a lot of attention.
“P.K. is an offensive defenceman and a risk-taker. That’s made him successful, that’s the way he plays the game. He doesn’t want to change that and I respect that. I respect the way that he plays the game…his type of enthusiasm and his ability to raise fans out of their seats. That’s a special gift and something that not very many players are able to do. But the way we’re coached on our team, the way our team is structured, that’s not what were looking for. We’re looking for a steady type of defenceman that makes quick plays and is able to move the puck right away. Shea fits that bill perfectly.”
Friedman explained how he was able to get that level of candor from Price.
“I think there are a couple of things,” Friedman began. “First of all, with Carey Price, it was the first interview he’d done. We did it as part of the World Cup Tour in Ottawa on Sunday. I think sometimes when you get to guys first, they’re at their most candid. So I think there’s that. Carey Price is one of the smartest players in the league. When he wants to break down a game, he can do it very well. And he did there.
“I think there’s probably also knowing that in Montreal, the Canadiens have taken a lot of criticism for this trade. He’s friendly with Shea Weber. He’s known him for a long time. (Price and Weber and their wives) both summer around the Kelowna, B.C. area and they got together, so I’m sure part of this is, ‘I’m going to stand up for my new teammate and my friend.’
“… I’ll tell you something else that wasn’t in the piece, but was part of the interview I did… I asked Carey Price why is Canada, aside from great players, so successful in these best-on-best tournaments. They win a lot of them. He said one of the things is structure. Everybody gets there, a bunch of great players, and they sacrifice to do what the coaches want them to do to win. So I think Carey Price does believe in order to be successful, you have to have great structure.”
Why does the perception of P.K. Subban seem to be different inside the dressing room, as opposed to outside of it?
“I think there’s a couple of reasons,” Friedman noted. “No. 1 is that the P.K. Subban we see outside is a great person. He’s gregarious, he’s outgoing, he’s funny, he loves the spotlight. And don’t forget he does a lot for charity. He spent a lot of time with a lot of children and families who went through difficult times, and I think that’s all fantastic. I see why people love him. I love talking to him. I think what you see out there is a fantastic person.
“Inside, I don’t think he’s a bad person. I didn’t get too many guys ripped him to me. I don’t think that’s there. But I think I see a person who has done things his way. And there was one quote in there from a player who asked not to be named, and I gave this to him because I thought it was a fair quote and not a hurtful quote. He talked about in his own experience, he was a guy who was, ‘I did things my way. And I learned that when you’re losing, you have to fit into the team more than ever.’
“And you saw Carey’s quote. I think that is the one thing – I think the Canadiens felt P.K. Subban and the way he wanted to play, it wasn’t going to work with them.
“I think the other thing that happened last year was the Canadiens’ season was so bad, that people in the organization looked and said, ‘Carey Price is our only untouchable. His contract is up in two years. We’re going to have Carey Price’s new contract and P.K. Subban’s $9 million contract. If we don’t do this now, we’re going to have no control over it.’
“And I think that played a huge factor in his trade.”
Friedman was then asked if he felt that this was a hockey trade, or if it was more based on a difference of personalities and how P.K. carries himself.
“I think it was a hockey trade because it was a great player for a great player, but there was a lot from Column B in there too,” said Friedman. “I think they just felt they needed a different attitude and a different on-ice direction in terms of the way the player was going to play.
“… Sometimes you need to get through that first trade to put that shock into your system. Shea Weber was shocked. Taylor Hall was shocked. P.K. Subban was shocked. If he’s going to fit that mold a little bit more in Nashville, it’s going to happen now. P.K. is going to be a motivated guy. He’s on a team that has a better chance to win the Stanley Cup now, I think, than Montreal does. And if that’s going to happen, he’s going to be a very big part of it. And it’s going to be because he got the shock to his system to do it.”
More than halfway through the 13-minute TV hit, the subject shifted to the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils swapping Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson.
Is that a good deal, straight up, from the perspective of each team?
“I think it’s a great deal for the Devils in the sense that they get a player they absolutely needed,” Friedman said. “They had struggled to score last year. They simply didn’t have another player like Taylor Hall on their roster.
“When it comes to Edmonton, I look at it this way. I think it’s part of something. You’re not going to look at a hockey deal and say the Oilers win it getting Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall. But what you are going to say is this – Edmonton has a ton of high-skilled forwards. They have Connor McDavid, who soon could be the best player in the league. They have Eberle. They have Nugent-Hopkins. They have Puljujarvi, who they just drafted. They have Draisaitl, who had a huge finish to last year. They were in a position of excess up front, and they needed defensemen. Peter Chiarelli did everything he could to get a defender, and it became pretty obvious Jordan Eberle wasn’t going to get him that guy. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was not going to get him that guy. He didn’t want to trade Draisaitl. Hall became the guy.
“And if they improve as a team, and Larsson plays a role in that – and with the extra cap money they got out of the deal they’re able to do other things – I don’t think people are going to look at it and say, ‘Boy, that was that bad.’
“I think in Edmonton it’s part of a package. In New Jersey you look at it and say, ‘We got a player that we just didn’t have.’ One-for-one, you’re saying it’s a Devils deal. Overall though, if Edmonton improves, I don’t think this deal is going to be viewed that badly in history.”
Friedman reiterated how he believes Chiarelli scoured the market for available defensemen.
“I think he looked at everybody… They were trying for Kevin Shattenkirk, for example,” noted Friedman. “And you’re not going to trade a guy with term for a guy who could leave in a year. They tried for Justin Faulk. They tried for Tyson Barrie, who at the time didn’t have a lot of term left. I think they tried for a lot of other guys too. They were talking Nugent-Hopkins for Matt Dumba, and Minnesota wanted more, and they were like, ‘No, we’re not doing that.’
“I think you make a key point there, and that is at the end they realized that Taylor Hall was the guy they were going to have to give up and Adam Larsson is a guy with term. And that came down to being the best deal.
“One of the other things that’s been written there that I think people have really parsed to see what does it mean was a couple of Oilers players told me that Taylor Hall was a dominant (Type A) personality. I think in Edmonton they kind of looked at it and said, ‘We want this to be Connor McDavid’s team. Is that going to happen while Taylor Hall is here.’ And I think they looked it and they said it may not, and that’s another reason they made the move.
The final segment of the examination of Friedman’s work shifted to Steven Stamkos’ decision to re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I think what happened was that’s the place where he really wanted to be,” said Friedman. “We’ve all been down to Tampa. It’s a great place to live. The other thing too is look at Steven Stamkos’ career. Didn’t make the 2010 Canadian team, which won a gold medal. 2011, they lose in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. 2014, he’s named to the Olympic team. He doesn’t get to go because he broke his leg. 2015 they make the Stanley Cup Final. 2016, he suffers the blood clot. He comes back for Game 7. They lose.
“I think when you’ve been through all of that and you love where you are and that team is good enough to win – and with Stamkos taking less money and Hedman taking less money and Killorn taking less money – I think these guys want to win. At the end of the day, you play hockey to win.
“… I’ll tell you, one of the stories I heard and wrote it was the day before they made the announcement, they called the Lightning and said, ‘Can we get a little bit more.’ Yzerman thought about it. He looked at the other things they did. And they said, ‘No, we can’t do it.’ And Stamkos admitted that. He said, ‘Yeah, there were negotiations.’
“But at the end of the day, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received was don’t screw with happy. And he looked at a situation where he was happy and they have a chance to win. They’re good enough as a team for a long time to win. And he said, ‘You know what guys. I want to win.’ That’s why he ended up there.
“I think if there was another team that really had as strong a chance to win – and San Jose was close, I think – then I think he would have gone there.”
Source: NHL Network/ Transcript: Nichols