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P.K. Subban of Predators big topic in Montreal with Canadiens eliminated

Gets attention in former city for reaching Western Conference Final vs. Ducks

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- P.K. Subban says he is generally left alone when he goes out to eat. 

The Nashville Predators defenseman is often asked to take photos or sign autographs, but Subban says it is usually when he's finished eating, and it never lasts very long. 

There is a certain calm and normalcy to his new life in Nashville, even if he is one of the most visible and high-profile Predators players. It is markedly different from his first six NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. 

And he loves it. 

"The only thing is," Subban said, "I didn't think I would like it this much, this fast." 

Montreal's trade of Subban to Nashville for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29 sent shockwaves through both cities, and they are still being felt. 

 

[RELATED: Ducks vs. Predators series preview]

 

That's especially true in Montreal and Quebec, with the Canadiens having been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round and the Predators preparing for their first Western Conference Final after eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks in four games and the St. Louis Blues in six. Nashville will play at the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 on Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

It's created an easy template to evaluate the trade after one season, even if it isn't entirely fair, but the fact that Subban is still playing and the Canadiens aren't has attracted huge attention in Montreal. 

Subban and the Predators dominated talk radio and social media in the city for days after Nashville eliminated the Blues. 

Video: NSH@STL, Gm1: Subban buries scorching one-timer

Montreal's three major daily newspapers ran columns on the trade when the Predators reached the conference final, one proclaiming Nashville the trade's early winner, another arguing the Canadiens made a trade that needed to be made and another hypothesizing what would happen in Montreal if Subban and the Predators were to win the Stanley Cup. 

The Predators' second-round playoff games on TVA Sports, the NHL's French-language broadcaster, had similar ratings to those of the Ottawa Senators, who play in a bilingual market, against the New York Rangers. 

Subban says he is not all that surprised. 

"My bond with the community since I was traded has actually become stronger," he said. "Usually it withers away when you get traded, but it's only gotten stronger." 

Subban is still involved with fundraising efforts with the Montreal Children's Hospital, honoring the $10 million commitment he made there nine months before he was traded, and he got an indication of how deep the bond remains when he was in Montreal to play his first game against the Canadiens on March 2. 

The day before the game, Subban received a Meritorious Service Decoration from governor general David Johnston in the morning at a ceremony held in the hospital's P.K. Subban Atrium, had an afternoon press conference at Bell Centre and then went back to the hospital with a few of his Predators teammates to visit with patients and staff. 

Subban was being driven around that day in a limousine, and says that at the end of the day the limo driver had something to tell him: a young member of the driver's family was in the hospital, and they were benefitting from P.K.'s Helping Hands, a program that helps families meet financial obligations while they have a child hospitalized to allow parents to be with their kids instead of having to go to work. 

The driver had one request for Subban. He wanted a hug. 

"You don't think I have tears in my eyes after that?" Subban said. "You don't think I go home and think about that at night? That's the special bond I have with that city." 

It's never been made perfectly clear what led the Canadiens to trade Subban, aside from wanting to acquire Weber, but there is a belief that bond with the city, that interest in having his own charitable and marketing endeavors, became problematic.

Video: SJS@NSH: Subban cranks a scorching slapper past Jones

The perception remains that Subban became a distraction. 

Subban says that as soon as he was traded to the Predators he was assured this would not be an issue in Nashville. He said general manager David Poile invited him to bring all of his support people -- agents, managers, social media consultants, family -- to Nashville to meet with the Predators front office to see how they could work together. 

Subban says that never happened in Montreal. 

"It's a partnership between us," Subban said of Poile and himself. "From Day One he understood I have other interests aside from hockey. That doesn't affect how I prepare. Hockey is still my No. 1 priority. There's no doubt about that. But I do have other interests and opportunities outside of hockey." 

Another perception during his days in Montreal being dispelled in Nashville is that Subban is a defensive liability, prone to taking undue risks at the wrong times and therefore unreliable with the game on the line. 

Don't tell that to Predators coach Peter Laviolette, who used Subban and Mattias Ekholm primarily against the Blues' top scorer, forward Vladimir Tarasenko, in the second round and had Subban on the ice for 6:36 of the final 12:44 in the clinching 3-1 win in Game 6, with the Predators leading by one most of that time. 

"They've been excellent all year," Laviolette said of the Ekholm-Subban pair. "I don't think it was a hope play when we ended up making the switch there and going with those guys for the last three or four games against that [Tarasenko] line. I think it's because of their track record and how well they've played defensively." 

Subban says he didn't fully move on from the Canadiens until he played against them. But those days seem completely behind him, even if his lineage with Montreal is not. 

Hockey is thriving in "Smashville," the Predators are on their longest playoff run and Subban has completely bought in. 

A big reason is the way the Predators, particularly Poile and Laviolette, have accepted him for who he is. 

"This has been one of the best hockey experiences of my career," Subban said. "I wake up in the morning and go to the rink and tell myself I'm going to do everything I can to not let these people down, because they're such good people and good leaders.

"I will block a shot with my face for these guys."

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