Are the Canadiens a better team now that they don’t have P.K. Subban?
Captain Max Pacioretty definitely thinks so — but added it’s more than just the Subban trade to Nashville in exchange for Shea Weber that has made the Canadiens an improved squad.
“Our team is better because of the guys that we acquired,” Pacioretty said, including Andrew Shaw and Alexander Radulov, who were also picked up by GM Marc Bergevin in summer moves.
“We needed to address a couple of things,” Pacioretty added before the start of the fourth annual Michel Therrien Invitational Tuesday at Le Mirage golf club in Terreboone. “We needed to address power play, we needed to address scoring goals. We needed to be harder to play against. Those three areas I think we’re a lot better in. Shawsy’s very hard to play against. He can contribute, I think, in any role on the team. And Radulov, obviously, produces offence and he can help on the power play as well. And then Shea obviously had 20 goals last year, I think. We needed to score more goals, especially on the power play, so that’s where he helps out a lot as well.”
Weber did indeed score 20 goals last season with the Predators, including 14 on the power play. Radulov, who signed a one-year, US$5.75-million free-agent deal with the Canadiens, scored 23 goals in 53 games last season with CSKA Moscow in the KHL.
“Our power play was not good enough last year and we need to score more goals,” Pacioretty said. “And Shea scores goals and Shawsy’s very tough to play against, and that’s an area that we need to get better at. And Radulov can help out in all departments as well.
“Radulov is another acquisition that we really feel confident about. He could be one of the top five skill players in the world right now. As soon as we signed him, I looked at his highlights on YouTube and I got goosebumps because this guy is one of the most skilled players in the world and I’m really excited to play with him.”
Shaw scored 14 goals, had 69 penalty minutes and was plus-11 in 78 games last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Bergevin acquired the 5-foot-11, 179-pounder (who plays much bigger than his size) in exchance for two second-round picks at this year’s NHL Draft (the Blackhawks took Chad Krys and Alex DeBrincat). Shaw then signed a six-year, US$23.4-million contract with the Canadiens.
“He comes with a lot of experience, winning two Stanley Cups,” Pacioretty said about Shaw. “One thing that sticks out in my mind — he even told me — he said when you win you just have this mindset where you expect to win every night. And I think having that mindset get transferred over to our team is going to be important, especially after the year that we had last year.
“You don’t often get the opportunity to trade for a guy who’s won two Stanley Cups,” Pacioretty added. “He knows what it takes … he’s played with some of the best players in the world. He’s played with probably the best captain in the world (Jonathan Toews) for a long time now. And those experiences mean a lot more to a team than people can even realize.”
No problem in room: Pacioretty
While there has been all kinds of speculation about a problem in the Canadiens’ locker room last season that might have led to Subban being traded, Pacioretty insists that wasn’t the case and that he was disappointed to see the defenceman leave town.
“First and foremost, I made sure that I called Subby right away (after the trade) because I’ve been with P.K. for a long time,” Pacioretty said. “We’ve played on the same team … we got drafted together nine years ago. It was emotional, obviously, and I talked to him right away. But to see him in good spirits and happy about the place and the opportunity that he’s going to be in, it made it a lot easier.”
Having Kirk Muller — a former Canadiens captain — back as an associate coach next season under Michel Therrien should also help Pacioretty with his leaderships skills as he enters his second campaign wearing the “C”.
“Kirk’s been in that position before, so those experiences alone are worth more than anything else anyone could say,” Pacioretty said. “But I played for Kirkie my first year (when Muller was an assistant coach in Montreal) and he’s very valuable to a team. As soon as he jumped on board everyone was really happy. Everyone who knows him knows what he brings to the team. We’re all very excited to have him. I’ve talked to him a couple of times and I just can’t wait to get started.”
Welcome to Montreal, Shea
Shaw and Weber got their first taste of the Montreal media mob at Tuesday’s golf tournament to benefit the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation, but Pacioretty insists Montreal isn’t that tough of a place to play.
“Everyone thinks of Montreal as being a place with a lot of pressure to play in and people think the media’s crazy,” the captain said. “But once you get here everyone falls in love with the city immediately and I think that’s been the case for (Weber) so far and Shawsy as well. Guys like that, they come in and they don’t know what to expect. You hear so much about it from the outside, but those are all myths. You come in and you love the pressure, you love standing in front of the media and talking. And you love coming here and kind of having a target on your back because it keeps you honest and keeps you playing your hardest every night. And I think it’s really what separates great players from good players because you have that little bit of pressure, but it makes sure that you play your best every night.”
As for those Canadiens fans who are still very angry that Subban is gone, Pacioretty said: “We can’t control what’s being said and what’s happening away from the rink. We have to worry about our play on the ice. Opinions will always be there and people will say what they want to say. But it’s August and it’s time to worry about the team that we have and worry about our own game, and hopefully everyone can contribute.
“We can go into this year and fly a little bit under the radar because of the year that we had last year. But you pull up our roster and we really like the team that we’re about to ice.”
(Photo: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)