Make no mistake. The Nashville Predators clearly won Wednesday afternoon's trade that sent Shea Weber to Montreal for P.K. Subban. The Montreal defenseman is younger, on a more friendly contract, and perfectly suited for the new age NHL mentality of speed over size. Subban and Roman Josi are going to create art on the ice for the foreseeable future, and Nashville increased their Stanley Cup odds.
BUT. The loss of Weber is the end of an era that stretched beyond the ice surface. In a sense, the British Columbia native embodied everything the franchise stood for since their inception. From a national perspective you couldn't mention the Predators without talking about Weber.
The famous slapshot will never escape the minds of the Bridgestone Arena faithful. The bone-crushing hits along with the timely fights made him a fan favorite among many. The toughness he played with created an aura around him. Opponents knew a cheap shot on a Predator wouldn't go without consequences from No. 6.
Other teams compiled their superstar forwards. but not Nashville. The Predators had their old school defenseman as the face of their franchise. It was different, but it was who they were. Nashville created the stigma of being a tough team to play against and earned their success from hard work. Weber fit like a glove to the identity Barry Trotz and David Poile created in this expansion franchise.
On par or even more important than Alex Ovechkin and Washington or Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh, Weber and Nashville became synonymous with each other. The team was more often than not described as "Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators."
You'd be hard pressed to manually build a better leader than Weber. He didn't speak out a lot, but when he did everyone listened. There was a respect there from everyone in the locker room, and he was looked up to by a lot of young defensemen that became really talented players.
The fact is the franchise has evolved over the past couple of years. An influx of forward talent with the likes of Ryan Johansen, James Neal, and Filip Forsberg along with the offensive minded Peter Laviolette has shaped the team from hardworking overachievers to real contenders in the playoffs. It's a good change, but the Weber exit in a way acts as a closing of the chapter on it's past expansion franchise tag and a beginning of a new one.
Weber was more to the Nashville Predators than his 100 mph slapshot. Or his physicality, toughness, and leadership. In an orthodox hockey city, the fan base stood behind an unorthodox face of the franchise.
There's no getting around Weber was losing a step in a game that kept getting faster. This move made sense from every aspect of the situation for Nashville. The organization improved themselves now and into the future.
But it would be an injustice to the player and person Weber was to the city of Nashville on and off the ice to gloss over this as "just a hockey move." Helping in the community, producing at a high level, and leading a team for many years without a hint of trouble in the locker room makes Shea one of the most important people in the maturation of the Predators from an expansion team in a southern city that might not succeed to a real contender in the NHL.
The Nashville Predators are a much better organization because of Weber. Thanks for the memories, Captain.