When Shea Weber was sent from the Nashville Predators to the Montreal Canadiens for fellow defenseman P.K. Subban in the summer of 2016 there were some unhappy fans in both cities. But close to three years later it seems many of those critics are now satisfied with the transaction.
The players display opposite personalities as Subban enjoys the spotlight and attention while Weber is a man of few words and goes about his job with little fanfare. However, they’re both valuable members of their respective teams even if they go about things on and off the ice in different ways.
It’s taken Habs’ fans a bit longer to warm up to their new captain since Weber was sidelined for 84 of the first 215 games after the deal. He’s been back in the lineup since November 27th though and looking as good as ever in his average 24:16 minutes of ice time every night.
The 33-year-old Weber impressed everybody in his first season with Montreal by posting 17 goals and 42 points in 78 outings and posting a plus-20. He added another three points in the playoffs, but the Habs were one and done by going out in six games. The native of Sicamous, British Columbia managed to play just 26 times last season and notched six goals and 10 assists as the team failed to make the postseason without him.
After being out for almost 12 months, Montreal is a legitimate playoff contender once again with Weber’s foot and knee healed and back on the blue line leading by example. He’s dressed for 27 games this season and contributed with seven goals and nine assists with a plus-11 rating. If he can manage to stay healthy he’s on pace for 15 goals and 34 points with a plus-24.
It isn’t luck that has propelled Montreal up the standings since their skipper returned and began logging more than his fair share of ice time.
Head coach Claude Julien recently told the Montreal Gazette newspaper, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think it’s you getting your top defenceman back who’s got an unbelievable presence not just on the ice, but even off the ice with the team.”
It’s well known throughout the league that Weber possesses a cannon of a shot which is arguably the hardest in the game. He’s not just a one-dimensional player though since he’s rock solid defensively and an exceptional passer. He’s a threat in both ends of the rink and just as effective at shutting down the opponent’s top players as he is at producing points.
In addition, Weber’s return has spurned better performances and numbers out of goaltender Carey Price and fellow rearguard Jeff Petry is now flourishing on the second unit. Fans shouldn’t be too surprised with Weber’s play though since he’s been an elite defenseman in the NHL for years.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pounder was originally drafted by Nashville in 2003 out of Kelowna of the Western Hockey League where he had 26 goals and 91 points in 190 contests. He was a two-time All-Star in the WHL and once at the Memorial Cup as well as the playoff MVP in 2004/05. He then posted 12 goals and 27 points in 46 AHL games with the Milwaukee Admirals and has been an NHL regular since 2006/07.
Since breaking into the league, Weber’s been named to the First and Second-All-star Teams twice each, has played in six All-Star Games and was the recipient of the Mark Messier Leader of the Year Award for 2015/16. He’s also starred internationally and helped Canada win gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. Some Nashville fans were miffed when he was sent packing since he’d notched 166 goals and 277 assists for the team in 763 games with another 28 points in 59 playoff encounters. This included three seasons of at least 20 goals and five campaigns of at least 15 goals.
An article from Pucky highlighted “Among the 176 blueliners with at least 400 even-strength minutes played this year, Weber ranks 22nd in CF% and 14th in SCF%. Most importantly when it comes to defensemen, he ranks first in GF%. Those are sparkling numbers.”
There’s no question the Predators got full value in return in former Norris Trophy winner Subban. However, his days seemed to be numbered in Montreal when former head coach Michel Therrien threw him under the bus in public and he played hardball during contract negotiations. Some in the Canadiens’ organization saw Subban as an erratic player or one-man team though and nothing much more than a self-serving publicity hound.
Like Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy before him, Subban wasn’t exactly seeing eye to eye with management when Montreal gave him a one-way ticket out of town. He still had plenty of fans in the Canadian city though and they were especially vocal last year when Subban was starring for Nashville and Weber was sidelined for what seemed an eternity.
The tables were turned somewhat this season with Weber playing impactful hockey and Subban shelved for 19 games. But on the whole, it appears this was one of the NHL trades that has worked out pretty well for both teams…at least when Weber and Subban have been in the lineup.
They both help their teams in their own way. Weber’s better in his own end is more physical and has a slightly harder shot while Subban likes to carry the puck when possible to create offense and get out of trouble defensively.
Both teams let a top-tier defensemen go, but they each received one in return, although Subban is three years younger. A healthy Weber seems to influence his club more though. The Habs were terrible without him last year and finished 28th out of 31 NHL teams and were the third-lowest scoring squad in the league. Weber has helped offensively this season along with youngsters and newcomers such as Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jonathan Drouin, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Domi.
Weber, who’s nicknamed “dad’ by his teammates, is under contract until the end of 2025/26. And with all the fine young prospects in the organization, it looks like Habs’ fans are in for an exciting ride over the next half-decade.