The Devils have missed the playoffs six of the last seven NHL seasons, but the organization is hoping for a bigger and brighter future after two major offseason acquisitions: first-overall pick Jack Hughes and defenseman P.K. Subban, who was acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators on June 22.
Subban, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner, visited his new organization’s facilities in New Jersey, this week to meet with the team’s coaching staff, front office and excited fan base.
Subban’s first trip to the Prudential Center involved a press conference in which he was presented with a Ric Flair-style bathrobe in honor of his joining the Devils.
Rarely one to hold his tongue, Subban also offered up some tantalizing quotes during his visit; here are the top five from his first few official days spent as a New Jersey Devil.
1. “People mention New York a lot, and I don’t play for New York, I play for New Jersey.”
The Devils organization both benefits from and lives in the shadow of the big city. NYC-based fans need to commute just about an hour from Midtown Manhattan to the Prudential Center for a game, opening the opportunity to catch the Devils in action. But it’s not easy when the team contends with the two other area franchises – the Rangers and Islanders – which both have deeper roots in the area than the Devils, who began playing in New Jersey in 1982. That’s not to mention the number of other sports franchises and entertainment options the five boroughs offer.
But Subban, well known for his philanthrophic efforts, plans on making his presence known primarily in New Jersey, not its larger-than-life next door neighbor.
“So that’s where my focus is,” Subban said during his official Devils introduction, via the New York Post. “On New Jersey and what I can do to help this organization and help this city.”
2. “It’s a young team, but this is a young league now.”
The Devils hope the additions of Subban and top draft pick Hughes can leapfrog the team past their Metropolitan division rivals and into legitimite contention for the Stanley Cup for the first time since the franchise advanced to the Cup Final in 2012. Subban’s ability as a physical, puck-moving defenseman should provide immediate help on the blueline.
The team has yet to see how well Hughes, despite his near-unlimited potential, adjusts to the NHL level. In addition, 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier has not even turned 21 yet and is already a key asset for New Jersey. Subban made note of how young the team is – including Hughes and Hischier, 13 of the 21 players currently on the roster are younger than 25 – but the 30-year-old blueliner does not see a youth movement as a hindrance to success this upcoming season.
“I’m not looking at this as a three-year process,” Subban said via the Devils’ Twitter. “I want to win now and next year, that’s where it starts.”
3. “[I see] banners, man. Like, legit banners, Stanley Cup banners.”
Subban has not won the Cup over the course of his 10-year career. He does know how it feels to lose on the game’s biggest stage, having been part of the Predators team that lost in six games to the Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. The Devils won three championships in nine seasons during the 1990s and early 2000s and cemented themselves as one of the league’s premier franchises during that time period. Aside from the one Cup final appearance, Nashville has struggled to make it through the first two rounds of the playoffs throughout the team’s 20-season history.
Subban’s “legit banners” remark (via TSN) was prompted when he was asked to reflect on what he sees in the Prudential Center’s ceiling, but the comment could be interpreted as a reference to his last franchise’s odd decision to raise a banner honoring the team’s success as the 2017-18 Western Conference regular season champions in Oct. 2018.
Could bad blood brew between the Devils and Predators over Subban’s comment? It is rare to see a true rivalry flourish between teams in opposing conferences, but the newest Devil’s comment may not have gone unnnoticed in Tennessee.
4. “I know on the day when I got traded all I wanted to hear was where I was going, and I was really excited when I heard that it was New Jersey. I was ecstatic.”
Subban explained that he has a number of friends within the league that are connected in some way to the Devils organization, such as former Canadiens teammates Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, who were members of the Devils teams that won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003 before both headed to Montreal. Subban also referenced the legacies that Martin Brodeur left on the franchise and said the Hall of Fame goaltender, as well as Patrik Elias, reached out to him after the trade to tell him he will like New Jersey.
“[The Devils are] a first-class organization,” Subban told NHL.com in a video interview. “There’s no question from me [or] my skills coach Cam, who has been here for the past few days. We’re just blown away at how they’ve treated us.”
5. “My whole tagline is about changing the game.”
Subban has generated buzz around the league for his entire career for his flashy style on and off the ice. His star power and electric personality has even been reported as a reason why the Canadiens traded him to Nashville in 2016. The Toronto native has connected with fans in each city he has played in, whether it’s by way of social media or making donations to hospitals, and Subban said he does not care about what some may think of the way he conducts himself.
“It’s not about changing the hockey game specifically but changing the things that we need to change in the game of life,” Subban said in a one-on-one video interview with NHL.com. “Because it is, right? Life is a chess match. Every decision that you make has a consequence to it. So why not? Why do I have to just focus on hockey? Why can’t I help people? Why can’t I have fun with my fans?”