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Canadiens' Subban ready to put season behind him

GM Bergevin has no plans to trade defenseman

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- What was evident Monday when the Montreal Canadiens wrapped up a disappointing 2015-16 season is that if there is one player who was seemingly born to play in Montreal, it is defenseman P.K. Subban.

Subban was at the heart of almost every controversy that has taken hold around the Canadiens since it became obvious they would miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in nine seasons.

It began with a perceived rift between him and captain Max Pacioretty, a relationship that was supposedly tearing apart the locker room as the losses continued to pile up. 

That notion was fueled by the players choosing to nominate Pacioretty for the King Clancy Trophy, given for leadership and humanitarian contributions in the community, in spite of Subban and his foundation making a seven-year, $10 million charitable commitment to the Montreal Children's Hospital.

Video: Subban on premature end to the season

Pacioretty, Subban and general Marc Bergevin each had to answer questions on it Monday, creating perhaps the first controversy ever centered around the King Clancy Trophy.

"I voted for him," Subban said. "So I don't see what the big deal is."

There was a game Feb. 17 when a Subban giveaway led to the Colorado Avalanche scoring the game-winning goal, and coach Michel Therrien publicly criticizing his star defenseman for it afterward. Two weeks later it happened in consecutive games.

Then there is the impending July 1 trigger date of a no-movement clause in Subban's eight-year, $72 million contract, leading to speculation Bergevin might use his best defenseman as a trade chip to address other areas of concern on the team.

All of these issues were broached Monday. And Subban addressed each one with a smile.

"Sometimes I do wish more of the attention could be on our team and not on myself, but I can't help it," Subban said. "I believe in this business you have to have thick skin. I have that thick skin for my teammates."

Those teammates have also never mentioned that Subban was a problem in any way. But problems were manufactured regardless. 

There was a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 9 when Subban loudly expressed his frustration to the media, causing Pacioretty to interrupt his interviews to look over at what was happening. That look, captured on camera, was shown again and again over the following days as further evidence of an icy relationship between the two.

"It's so funny I'm being asked this," Pacioretty said Monday. "If you guys could bring the cameras into the wives' room and see P.K. playing mini-sticks with my son after the game I don't think I'd be asked this question. What do you guys want me to say? P.K. Subban came to my wedding."

Video: Pacioretty on leadership and learning

This is playing hockey in Montreal. More specifically, this is what it's like to play losing hockey in Montreal, and Subban has no problem with it.

In fact, he embraces it.

"This is Montreal and that's what makes it fun playing in this market, there's never a dull moment," Subban said. "Every day there's a story. It doesn't matter if it's true or it's manufactured, there's something to talk about. That's not necessarily a bad thing. That's what makes Montreal an exciting place to play."

That answer is also why the idea of trading Subban seems unfathomable.

He is one of the top players in the NHL by any objective measure, and not only does he not mind playing under the glare of the intense Montreal spotlight, he thrives in it.

Bergevin repeatedly said Monday it is not his intention to trade Subban by July 1, stopping short of saying definitively he won't do it, but making it very clear it would take an extremely enticing offer to even consider it.

Not everyone is able to handle the pressure of playing in a hockey environment like Montreal, with media in two different languages covering every tiny detail of the team and a passionate fan base devouring every nugget of information that's provided. But Subban has never complained.

He feels so strongly about the city he made the commitment to the Montreal Children's Hospital when he could have easily chosen to do it in his hometown of Toronto. He wanted to do it here to show his commitment to his adopted hockey home.

"Regardless of the situation this team's in I will always be attached to the city of Montreal and always want to play here," Subban said when asked about the possibility of being traded. "There's not a day that has ever gone by that I ever regret putting on this jersey or stepping into the province of Quebec every time I drive down the highway for training camp.

"I love everything about this city, but at the end of the day that's the business part of it. I keep my fingers crossed that I'm here for as long as the team, the organization and the city want me to be here. I embrace everything about this city. I love it. But all I can do is go play the game, put a smile on my face and have fun."

None of what he or Bergevin said is likely to kill the speculation of a Subban trade between now and July 1, because that simply comes with the territory. 

The fact Subban understands that better than anyone is exactly why the Canadiens would be wise to keep him around.

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