The Ones That Got Away, Subban vs Chelios


Yes I know, why am I still writing about PK Subban when he is no longer a Montreal Canadien? Well fact is, this is the off season and until Shea Weber plays a game as a Montreal Canadien, there’s not much to write about. Living in the east coast, I’ve only watched a handful of Nashville Predators’ games and I don’t really want to write about how well Shea shot at Michel Therrien’s golf tournament. So here we are, another PK post. In my defense, whether you’re a fan of the trade or not, PK’s time in Montreal was memorable to say the least, with 2 deep playoff runs to the Eastern Conference Finals and clutch goals and big hits vs the rival Bruins.

But as the saying goes, history tends to repeat itself and did the Habs really just deal another former Norris trophy winner in his prime again? Remember, almost to the exact date 26 years ago, on June 29, 1990, the Canadiens dealt the 1989 Norris Trophy winner Chris Chelios, in the prime of his career at the age of 28, to the Chicago Blackhawks for future Hall of Famer Denis Savard. Now the report was that Chelios’s off-ice issue was the sole reason why the Habs dealt their star defenseman.

After playing only 53 games in the next season (in which he served as co-captain, with Guy Carbonneau), on June 29, 1990, Chelios was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks with a 2nd-round draft pick for Denis Savard, who is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame. This trade happened one day after Chelios was accused of fighting with two police officers as they tried to arrest him for urinating in public outside a bar in downtown Madison, Wis., according to a criminal complaint.

Source The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1990-07-01

Being born in 1988, I have no recollection of Chelios as a Montreal Canadien, aside from a few clips on YouTube. So the majority of my memory consists of Chelios with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. And just like fine wine, Chelios’ hockey career did get better with age. It could be said that for the entire 90s, along with Brian Leetch and Ray Bourque, Chris Chelios was one of the best defenseman of the decade. He was as dominate as it got, winning another 2 Norris Trophy in 1993 and 1996, while leading the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992, before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 4. Being a typical 8 years old Canadian kid at the time, I also remember Chelios dominating the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and breaking Canadian hearts when the USA beat Canada 5-2 in the decisive Game 3. Still a serviceable defenseman at 37 years old, Chelios was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 1999, where he won another 2 Stanley Cups in 2002 and 2008. Finally after the 2009-10 NHL Season, Chris Chelios brilliant 27 year career ended as he announced his retirement of hockey.

Chelios’ Habs Stats GP G A PTS PIM
Regular Season 402 72 237 309 783
Playoffs 98 16 52 68 186

Errie similar isn’t it? The Habs traded a younger player in his 20s for an older star, who some say is beginning to show signs of slowing down. Now don’t get me wrong, I have already said that I think Weber will definitely improve and help the Canadiens. He adds a physical presence that the Habs have been lacking for decades. I just question how long he would help the Habs, being he is 4 years older than Subban. But fact is, if Weber brings the cup to Montreal, like Denis Savard and the Canadiens in 1993, it justify the trade in every way. That is, this is a team sport and the ultimate goal is the Stanley Cup. If Subban goes on to win 3 or 4 more Norris Trophy, but Weber plays a significant role in a cup winning Habs’ team, then I can live with it. PK definitely was a fan favourite among the fans, and for my generation, we will always remember countless of Subban highlights. From his game tying goal in Game 7 against Boston and then mocking the fans at the TD Garden, to his huge hit on Brad Marchand, to his breakaway goal against Tuukka Rask, this list is endless. As a fan, Subban brought excitement, at a time when the Habs were playing a more defensive minded grinding (boring) style of game. It made the games fun to watch, and with a gamebreaker like Subban, a belief that anything could happen, even if the Habs were down 1 with 2 seconds to play (Subban’s pass to Desharnais’ game tying comeback goal against Ottawa). However, of all the highlight reels, my fondest memories of Subban were of him on Habs teams that reached the ECF. Barely old enough to remember the 93 Stanley Cup run, the 2 playoff runs that involved Subban, in 2010 and 2014, were one of the funniest times as a Habs fan.

Subban’s Habs Stats GP G A PTS PIM
Regular Season 434 63 215 278 532
Playoffs 55 11 27 38 94

As mentioned, Subban’s NHL career is still thriving, thus it’s hard to judge between Chelios and Subban. Even with their stats as a Montreal Canadien were similar, for me, maybe it’s because I’ve only had the chance to see Chelios play at the later part of his career, but Subban was definitely more dynamic. Will Subban ever win a Stanley Cup remains to be seen (that is how we judge star players isn’t it? The number of championship rings they got). But as a Habs, Subban played with his heart on his sleeve and bled bleu, blanc et rouge. Of recent history, Subban (along with Cammalleri) was one of the Habs best playoff performers, and I had always thought that if the Canadiens were to win a 25th Stanley Cup, Subban would’ve played a substantial role. That wasn’t meant to be, but Chelios or Subban as a Habs? Personally, I go with Subban. Chelios or Subban career wise? Chelios for now, but the future remains to be seen.


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