NEWARK, NJ - Perhaps, P.K. Subban is saving his best for the fans in New Jersey.
"I still don't believe that I've played my best shift yet, or had my best period, my best game or my best season," the 10-year NHL veteran said on Tuesday evening, during an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with NewJerseyDevils.com. "So, I try to inspire myself. Everybody has to work on themselves, no one is perfect. No one wakes up every morning and, you know, you have to love yourself but you also have to drive yourself from within."
Video: 1-ON-1 | P.K. Subban Pt. 1
The dynamic defensemen has found that drive within himself to achieve some big things in his career already. He's won a Norris Trophy, he's a three-time NHL All-Star, and he's been to a Stanley Cup Final with Nashville. But for P.K., the grand prize is still missing.
He continues to chase his first Stanley Cup championship.
This could be his chance.
"There were a lot of highlights over those years [with Montreal and Nashville]," Subban said. "And I'm very proud of that, but coming to New Jersey, it's a different situation that I believe, can contend for a Stanley Cup in a very short future. My job is to just come in and be a part of this team and be a part of the growth process with all these players and young talent. I'm really, really excited about that."
Subban was open and candid as he sat down for a more than 20-minute long interview at Prudential Center, just days into his first trip to New Jersey as a member of the Devils. He's done this before. He's been a part of a big trade that sent him to a new city, so he knows how it all works. For Subban, he's crammed a lot into his first few days here, from finding a place to live, taking a tour of his new arena, a visit to a local medical facility, and of course, a first face-to-face meeting with his new head coach John Hynes.
"You can understand exactly why players love to play for him," P.K. said of that encounter. "In particular, I've never, ever felt … I never want a coach to feel like he needs to be my friend, I always want a coach to be the coach and I'm the type of guy that wants to be held accountable all the time, so I respect coaches. But for [Hynes], you can tell with his personality he's a players-coach and he's very considerate and understanding of what players need and wanting to know what players need but at the same token understand that he has a job to do and his job is to hold you accountable. I want to be held accountable like everyone else."
His short but busy visit has all culminated into a crash-course of what the Devils organization expects from their players, and how the culture around the team embraces the idea of a 'brotherhood' mentality. Sitting underneath the word 'Brotherhood', prominently displayed in the Prudential Center locker room, Subban can already define what that means to him.
"Brotherhood, brothers, whatever it is, you have to be on the same page to win," he said. "And brotherhood is having the guys next to you, having their back. And if you don't have that, you won't win a thing. So I think it's important to have something like that on the wall. And I guess just coming into the team, as my career goes on every year that I see someone win the Stanley Cup all I think about is 'what do I have to do to win one?' and I'm willing to do anything."
"I guess, that's what it means," Subban continued. "Doing whatever it takes to win and that's also supporting your teammates and having your teammates backs."
In a few short weeks, Subban will be back just as the 2019-20 NHL season is ready to get going. There are a lot of eyes on the Devils, especially with the Entry Draft weekend additions of Jack Hughes and Subban. There is the anticipation from both the fans and he himself, leading up to the year as he starts fresh.
"My number one goal, first of all, is to make the most significant impact in this locker room and on the ice," he said. "Coming here, my teammates always come first and at the end of the day if you're breaking it down, if you're one of the highest-paid guys on the team and in the league, there's an expectation that comes with that. My expectation is to be able to have that big impact on the ice and be able to justify exactly why I'm here and to do my job and my part."
Part of Subban's job will be to help create offense from the back-end. He reached his career-best 16-goal mark with the Predators in 2017-18, when he hit the 59 point mark. Contributing and winning are what drives the 30-year-old. It is also what brings him great joy and is unafraid to show it.
When that first goal off of Subban's stick strikes the back of the oppositions net, there's a very good chance the fans will see the signature Subban celebration, the bow and arrow 'skate-man', as he has named it. And while it is just a quick two seconds before his fellow teammates crowd around for the goal celebration, there is indeed a heartfelt significance to that celebration and symbol that has become synonymous with Subban.
Video: 1-ON-1 | P.K. Subban Pt. 2
"It's just something that kind of stuck with me," Subban said. "I guess that symbol, I call it the 'Skate-Man', I guess that celebration for me symbolizes a point in my career where I decided to stop caring about what people thought about me enjoying the game that I love and that has given me so much. That's what it kind of represents to me, being unapologetically happy about what I do every day. And when I have success in what I do, whether I score a goal, or I set up a goal or I'm winning, then for me that's like winning at life, so why shouldn't I celebrate that? I'm going to celebrate every time I score a goal. There are times where I don't, but if I feel like it, I'm going to celebrate it and I don't care if you like it or not. That's kind of where it comes from."
Subban has a larger-than-life personality and as he calls it, "a zest for life." With nearly one-million followers on Instagram and another 1.1 million on Twitter, Subban has a certain connectedness with his fanbase and his personality is constantly on display. He allows his fans access into his life on a daily basis, and lets the world know a lot about who he is, what he stands for and how he goes about his business.
"I just felt almost like I wasn't worthy of it," Subban reflected of the initial attention he received while with the Montreal Canadiens. "And because of that I always go to the extra extent for my fans, to keep them engaged in what I'm doing because they're so passionate. They're so avid. Fans are what allows us to do what we do every day. People can be critical of things that I do with my social media, or things that I have done in the past but the reality of it is that without the fans we have nothing. I'd have no job."
And the critics do come out. He knows not everyone will like him, how he goes about his business and the way in which he chooses to engage in the world on multiple levels. And perhaps that is what gets under his skin the most, that he may in fact be misunderstood.
It is also one of the reason's he will continue doing exactly what he's already done.
"One of the things that upset me a lot, and I'm pretty open about it is people that challenge my character or challenge my commitment to my job or the game that I play," he said. "It's really unfortunate sometimes in media, that's why I'm very happy that I have the following that I have because I can help control that narrative and correct it.
"But people continue to try to make it look like as if I'm not committed to the game, or my goal isn't to be or aspire to be a Hall of Famer or to win a Stanley Cup," Subban continued. "I show that every day to my fans in my commitment to the game, in what I do, in how I train and how I prepare. And there's nothing more that I want than to be one of the greatest players in the game, I also to be one of the greatest teammates that guys have ever had. I want to be that, I want to be a mentor to young guys, I want to be friends to veteran players, that's a goal of mine too. Those are very, very, very important but with that, I'm also a businessman. I have a production company, I have a marketing company, I have different things that I have going on and different interests and there's nothing wrong with having different interests as long as you prioritize the things that you need to do first. And I do."
So instead of seeing P.K. on a golf course, like some of his fellow NHLers in the off-season, you might catch him in a closed-door meeting instead. It's how he gets away from the game like all players do.
Video: 1-ON-1 | P.K. Subban Pt. 3
"I'm just one of those guys that maybe, you know when other hockey players are going out and golfing for five hours, I'm taking meetings from my production company. What's the problem with that? So, I guess my biggest pet-peeve is just people that challenge my commitment to wanting to be the best player that I can be and winning a Stanley Cup because the people that say that don't know me at all. They have no idea what I'm about."
It may upset him, but it certainly won't distract him. From the sounds of it, no matter how hard someone may try, P.K. Subban won't let anyone ruin his day or rain on his parades.
"I think that people have to understand that in today's world we need people that are more optimistic than pessimistic about their situation and understand that energy can change your situation. I refuse to bring a negative aura," he said. "I want to bring positive energy to everything that I do because I believe that only good things can happen when you do that."
We can already feel it.
Video: BEHIND-THE-SCENES | P.K.'s First Reactions