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No more excuses

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Examining feelings surrounding the Montreal Canadiens in the aftermath of the trade that shook a fanbase to its very core, and the outlook for new leadership

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It's been a week since the trade that shook Montreal. P.K. Subban was traded to the Nashville Predators, the end of his time in Montreal coming all too sickeningly soon for legions of heartbroken fans.

At the time, the trade was overwhelmingly considered 'unthinkable.' Except it wasn't. It was very, very thinkable. Ever since rumours first surfaced about the divide in the Canadiens' locker room and someone cleverly remembering that Subban's no-trade would not take effect until July 1, the possibility of a trade was analyzed ad infinitum from every possible angle before June 29.

On June 23 in Buffalo, rumours reached new heights as the day grew long, and Canadiens' General Manager Marc Bergevin's traditional statements to the press prior to the draft were postponed again and again, and we all began to lose our minds. Bergevin finally came out and said everything but that he was flat-out not trading Subban, because no general manager can say that, right? If they do, they're not doing their job, right? So it was good enough for us.

Inside thought... Although, looking back at it, Bergevin seemed very out of sorts with the press, even getting a couple of answers mixed up, and couldn't come up with the right things to say about Subban. It might be the first time he ever seemed completely unprepared for a presser. In hindsight.

On June 29, after feeling very much alleviated by Bergevin's repeated answer "no" to the trade questions at the draft in Buffalo, Habs' fans on both sides of Habs debates were all watching our clocks. The months-long countdown to the day we had all been hoping would 'just get here' was almost here! And in the middle of laughing at the announcement that the Edmonton Oilers had traded Taylor Hall, an audible, horrified gasp went up in Habs Nation.

They did it. They traded him. They actually traded him! It was so hard to believe, that before the tweets were confirmed, we all thought it had to be a hoax. That someone had pulled off the coup of hacking multiple insiders' accounts and tweeted out what would possibly go down as the most troll tweets of all time, that fan-favourite P.K. Subban had been traded from the Montreal Canadiens.

Once the realization set in, and by the way that did not take long, my initial thought was one of betrayal, personally. I had convinced myself that it would never, could never happen. It will forever be an infamous 'where were you when' moment. My ensuing reaction was one of anger. And the disbelief and pandemonium, figurative rioting if you will, exploded on social media. The first stages of grief in almost instantaneous succession. The hero of sick children, and the city's most famous entertainer, was leaving Montreal. We were flabbergasted. And absolutely gutted. The first 48 hours seemed to go by in a haze.

The post-Subban era

The following days saw numbness, then acceptance set in. Some of us, including me, eventually found that dwelling on the trade and clinging to our anger was not going to help us. There are fans who have renounced the CH and have left the fanbase forever (or at least for now), and remembering that awful day and my own emotions, it's comprehensible.

Taking with a grain of salt the stories that have floated in the last week, and into consideration the moves made by Marc Bergevin on free agency day, added to the passing of the painful first days of a post-Subban era, I am once again willing to give Marc Bergevin the benefit of the doubt and believe him when he says he genuinely believes he's made our team better - hard as that was to believe in his press conference after trade. Bergevin, after all, like it or not - because we tell ourselves he's wrong - actually is the one with all the information.

I have no choice. I am a Montreal Canadiens fan. I have to believe him for many reasons, and one of the biggest ones (besides being a fan) is that if Marc Bergevin went to Geoff Molson to say he was trading P.K. Subban, I have to imagine that Molson would have made him guarantee a Stanley Cup.

So with the additions of an elite forward and an NHL goalie on free agency day, never mind the acquisition of a Blackhawk with two Stanley Cups at the draft, and the return of a healthy Carey Price, it's okay for one to admit that this team today actually looks better than it did last year.

By the way, Subban was traded for Shea Weber. Weber, the first defenceman consistently selected by Hockey Canada to represent our country in international competitions. Weber, with two gold medals. Weber, powerplay specialist with a shot like a cannon. Weber, reigning Mark Messier Leadership Award winner. Weber, whose first text message after the trade was announced came from the one and only Carey Price.

Carey Price is the real leader in that room, whose presence last season, it turns out, was more missed in the room than on the ice, impossible as that notion might be to comprehend. Remember the playoff round vs the Bruins in 2014? P.K. Subban electrified us that series - even vowing ahead of Game 7 that he was going to take the joy from the Bruins' fans. Montreal won Game 7.

One thing that no one ever mentions, though, is that after the game Daniel Briere said something happened in the dressing room at the second intermission with the Habs leading by just a goal after the Bruins had scored on a late powerplay, now facing a Bruins squad with momentum determined to tie the game.

Carey Price, according to Briere, stood up in that room, and told his teammates something like that they were all blessed to be there, and to enjoy the game. Seems to be all Price had to say. Briere said that when Price talks, everybody stops and listens. And they held the Bruins off for 17 minutes before Briere scored the insurance goal.

One could argue that with such a leader, the 'rift in the room' could have been mended by his return alone, but then perhaps if the Canadiens are in 'win now' mode, it could be they didn't feel like they had the luxury of time to test that.

The notion of having the combination of the leadership qualities of both Price and his friend, Shea Weber, in the Canadiens' 'room' - again hypothesizing that last season's derailment was perhaps not due to Carey Price's knee after all, but to struggles in leadership - should inspire hope. Not to mention the return of other healthy bodies such as Jeff Petry and Daniel Carr. Another thing that's worth repeating is that the players who remain will have definitely learned from last season's train wreck. Hey, what doesn't kill ya.

So, welcome, Shea Weber. Many of us, myself included, are really looking forward to seeing you play. We hear tell that you are very good at playing hockey.

P.K. Subban, thank you for entertaining us and making us rise out of our seats for years, and bringing us to tears of joy. Thank you, personally, for helping me make my children bona fide, diehard Canadiens fans. But I cannot hope to see you lift the Stanley Cup with the Predators, because that will mean that my team won't have won it.

Marc Bergevin finally made his blockbuster trade. It involved saying good-bye to probably the most loved Montreal Canadien in decades. Besides being what will define Bergevin's legacy, the move sent out a clear message to fans, and players: He is not only capable of it, he traded P.K. Subban. He is not afraid to watch the world burn if he thinks he's doing the right thing for his team. Not the media, not the fans; his team. Think about that for a moment.

So do it. Win now. Win the Cup. Add another word to the motto on the dressing room wall: No More Excuses. If leadership and a knee were last season's excuses, those have now been removed. The time is now. Go out and win.

No more excuses.