It is finally that time of year that expectant fans have waited and watched for—the December return of that merry maker full of mischief and magic. No, I’m not talking about the Elf on the Shelf. I’m talking about P.K. back on Broadway. P.K. Subban, the Predators’ former defender, returns to Bridgestone Arena on Saturday, but this time as a New Jersey Devil.
Seeing P.K. Subban traded to the New Jersey Devils in June felt as bleak as boxing up the Elf on a Shelf and storing him in the attic on a cold, gray January day. A little bit of magic was gone, not to return again until December. My mind processed the logistics, but my heart had a hard time turning the page. It is difficult to say good bye to someone like Subban—a tenacious player on the ice, a generous heart off the ice, and a whole lot of merriness everywhere he goes.
In what was often considered one of the best moves the franchise has made, Subban was traded to Nashville for then-captain Shea Weber in 2016. It was immediately obvious that there was something special about Subban when his first shot as a Predator resulted in his first goal for the team.
Subban’s signature slap shot from just inside the blue line would result in his signature celly many times over the course of the next three seasons.
Although sometimes his aggressive play didn’t always pay off, with Subban on the ice there was always a chance for something special to happen. He was a key piece to winning the Western Conference Championship in 2017. Although he was not able to gift the Stanley Cup to Smashville, Subban gave a tremendous performance, and also endeared himself to fans everywhere (except in Pittsburgh) when he tackled his Sidney-Crosby-rumored bad breath during the finals that year.
The self-declared “best-looking Subban brother,” a dapper P.K. embraced the city off the ice as well. Whether enjoying biscuits and banana pudding at Loveless Cafe or sweating through Hattie B’s Shut the Cluck Up hot chicken, Subban was a charismatic ambassador for Nashville.
His good cheer as “Eddie,” the spreader of undercover kindness, blessed us, every one.
Fortunately, some of the off-ice P.K. Subban magic has lingered here. When his twinkling eyes saw an opportunity to help build a rapport between youth and police in the fun atmosphere of a hockey game, Subban created the Blueline Buddies program in Nashville in 2017. The program connects a Metro Nashville Police officer and guest with youth from the community and representatives from youth services organizations in the area.
Even after saying good-bye to Subban, the Predators have continued the Blueline Buddies program, providing dinner, game tickets, and a player meet and greet for guests. The fact remains—wherever P.K. plays, he leaves his unique and generous mark.
Last night’s #bluelinebuddies were Officer David “Goose” Smith & Officer Shelby with @MNPDNashville and Josh Farmer with his @mentorakid mentor, Sam Safer! They got to meet with @RyanJohansen19 pregame pic.twitter.com/AD26ZAy5Em— Preds Foundation empowered by SmileDirectClub (@PredsFoundation) December 4, 2019
Subban’s new journey in New Jersey hasn’t been a walk through a sea of swirly-twirly gumdrops. On paper, the Devils had promise to start the 2019-2020 season. Not only did they add Subban, but the Devils selected Jack Hughes with the first pick in the 2019 draft, traded for Nikita Gusev, and saw the healthy returns of goaltender Cory Schneider and winger Taylor Hall.
But just as writing “Great Dane puppy” on my Christmas list doesn’t seem to make it happen, their on-paper potential hasn’t translated into much on-ice success. Schneider struggled and in November cleared waivers to get some reps in Binghamton, Hughes missed three games due to injury, Hall is rumored to be leaving New Jersey before the trade deadline, and on Tuesday head coach Coach John Hynes was fired after a tumultuous season start. If ever a team were wishing for a Christmas miracle, it would be the New Jersey Devils.
When Subban returns to Bridgestone’s ice on Saturday night wearing a Devils jersey of holiday red, I hope he realizes that while he has left our town and our team, he hasn’t left our hearts. Although he is no longer a Nashville Predator, having a chance to reflect on Subban’s time in Smashville and to thank him for his contributions to the city is a holiday celebration for us all.