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The P.K. Subban trade signals a troubling shift in philosophy for the Montreal Canadiens

The trade is emblematic of Montreal's commitment to a misguided change in philosophy.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It's clear how the Habs brass see the P.K. Subban trade.

To them, it's a swap of speed for power. Shea Weber is known for gritty, hard play. He looks like a prototypical hockey player and plays like one, too. Big shot. Big hits. A leader on the ice.

But the instant reaction among Habs faithful was one of overwhelmed perplexity and frustration. Subban wasn't a prototypical hockey player because he was something new, and something the Montreal Canadiens had sorely lacked in a skater for decades: an electrifying superstar, one that made fans hold their breath with every rush up the ice.

What's puzzling about the move isn't that Montreal's current management group executed it. If anything, it's what we've come to expect from a team that has continuously emphasized a valuation of defence over offence, and team play over individual effort. Its perceived desire for character over personality.

It's not unfathomable that this trade might seem beneficial for the Canadiens in the extreme short term — say, this season and possibly even the next. But it's hard to imagine the Canadiens making up for that loss of mobility on the blue line with Weber at the back end.

In his initial press release, Marc Bergevin observed that Weber's power-play goal-scoring and leadership were key components of his game that saw Montreal bring him in. But that's unfairly placing the blame for the failing power play on Subban, when the system in place severely limited one of the best offence-driving players — not defencemen, players — in the NHL.

Montreal's late season addition of John Scott and Mike Brown last year raised eyebrows, but on a team that was not within striking distance of the playoffs, they were unremarkable. The additions of Andrew Shaw and Weber over the likes of Lars Eller and Subban see management heading in a new direction. Backwards.

This isn't a bad trade for Montreal. It's a terrible one. And the most damning evidence thus far of a team that is learning all of the wrong lessons from its failures. Montreal is trading speed and talent for brute force and post-whistle scrums.

In fact, it's hard not to see Montreal as being extremely limited by this trade. Their mobility suffers. They get older. Their long-term financial outlook will take a huge hit.

The Canadiens are trading an accomplished player with incredible potential for an accomplished player who has surpassed his.

Shea Weber has a square jaw and a hard shot. But he's no P.K. Subban, and the Canadiens are going to be reminded of that every time Nashville comes to town.

It's easy to fathom the Canadiens imagining they've landed their Duncan Keith; a talented defender in the traditional hockey mould. But what they've received is a player in decline with a lot of salary and a lot of term, who will receive more ice time with more limited support.

Weber has pedigree and an impressive awards mantle, much like Andrew Shaw has Stanley Cup rings. And there's a bit of irony that the Canadiens are looking backwards at the past accomplishments of the players they are accumulating, rather than the future of their own team.

Because looking at the past is such a Montreal thing to do. It's a city that prides itself on its history, and yes, on the accomplishment of winning 24 Stanley Cups.

But a 25th has never felt so distant.