When Toronto Maple Leafs and Team Canada’s head coach Mike Babcock referred to Montreal Canadiens’ newly acquired defenseman Shea Weber as a “Man Mountain”, he probably didn’t realise that this nickname would stick. The fact is that in Montreal, many have already adopted the analogy for the big and punishing All-Star defenseman.
Not so long ago, we have touched on how the NHL has rallied behind Weber, going 180 degrees against what some Habs’ fans think, particularly those who believe that advanced statistics are the bible to qualify players in the NHL. Yet, reputable executives and hockey minds have publicly come out to praise Team Canada’s assistant-captain since the trade. Those are people who have seen both Habs’ fan-favourite P.K. Subban and Weber play in many, many occasions.
More recently, players have spoken to the media about what Shea Weber represents not only for Team Canada, but in the NHL. Those are the players who have (or had) to face him on a regular basis. You will notice that most of those guys are or were playing in the Western Conference, and most also are not little guys… But let’s have a look at some quotes, for fans who would like to see what players think instead of reading bloggers who are making a goal of trying to make the Canadiens’ organisation look bad with this trade.
“Physically, Weber is a man-mountain,” Mike Babcock said of the Canadiens defenceman. “He’s as good a human being as I’ve ever been around. He doesn’t have to say much. He just has to look at you and you snap into shape. He cuts a big swath out there. He shoots it so hard, no one wants to stand in his way. What I like about him best, when he walks in the dressing room, you know it’s business. He’s a cultured type person. He makes your franchise better when he walks in the door.”
“You get in his 12-foot radius and you want to get out of there pretty quickly,” Joe Thornton said. “He’s possibly the strongest guy in the league.” Thornton took that same cross-check to the back last season after tangling with Roman Josi, Weber’s defensive partner on the Predators, and it easily downed one of the game’s biggest and toughest players. “It’s a heavy stick,” Thornton said. “It’s a heavy stick, that’s all I can say.”
“He doesn’t give you an inch,” said Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry, a frequent foe — and his freakish strength. He routinely finished first in Nashville’s fitness tests and weightlifting challenges. Friends and enemies alike talk about him with the sort of reverence normally reserved for men who can bend metal bars with their bare hands.
His defense partner of last year had this to say: “He’s a huge presence,” said Roman Josi, who is playing for Team Europe and will face his former partner Weber for the first time. “He’s one of the strongest guys I’ve ever met. We used to joke around in the dressing room and you could tell how strong he is.”
“He’s a mutant,” Canadian and Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf said. That Anaheim centre has had to face Weber in multiple occasions, including last Spring when the Predators surprisingly eliminated his Ducks from the NHL playoffs. “Being around his net isn’t exactly the funnest place to be.”
“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s physical,” said Team USA’s Ryan Kesler, who has engaged in a running battle with Weber in professional and international play for years. “Once you get him in front of the net, he’s mean and nasty. He reminds me of playing Zdeno Chara back in the day.”
Minnesota Wild forward Mikael Granlund couldn’t be happier to see Weber move to the Eastern Conference. “You just know it’s going to hurt,” Finland’s Granlund said. The forwards are the ones who feel the need to brace themselves. Weber is like a deep bruise that stings them before it even begins to surface.”
Granlund is not the only player from the Minnesota Wild who is relieved to not have to face Weber on a regular basis. The team captain can’t be happier either. “As a player, you always know a guy like him is out there,” Granlund’s fellow Finn Mikko Koivu said. “There are no nights off. That’s the best way to say it.”
One of Weber’s former proteges had huge praise for his mentor. “He’s a fantastic hockey player and a fantastic person,” Seth Jones said of the defenseman. “I lived with him my first year for a couple months when I first got to Nashville. He did a lot for me. He taught me a lot about how to lead a team and how to be a professional.”
And one guy who is not looking forward to being in the same division didn’t hesitate to speak out. “Weber is the kind of guy when you’re going down one-on-two, you go to the other guy,” said Brad Marchand. He’s the kind of guy you hate to play against every night. You go into that rink, you don’t want to play against Webs. He’s big. He’s mean. He shoots the puck so hard.”
Even Weber’s former goaltender is envious of his Canadiens counterpart, speaking from first-hand experience. “I’m 100 percent sure that Carey is going to like to play with Weber. He’s a modern defenseman who is really tough,” said Pekka Rinne. “There’s not a similar player in the league that’s that physical, that has that shot.”
“There’s not a forward in this league that wants to go into the corner with Shea Weber. He has a great one-time shot on the power play. There’s a lot of qualities off the ice that Shea has. He’s a natural captain. That shows. He’s an alternate captain on Team Canada. That show’s he’s a quality leader. Those are qualities that are going to help our team,” says Carey Price.
Jonathan Toews, when learning about the trade, tweeted this:
But how does Weber see his role for Team Canada and for the Canadiens?
“You want to take care of the front of your net,” Weber said. “Obviously, there are a lot of areas that are going to make differences in games, but I think the two biggest areas are right in front of your net and right in front of their net. You want to get as many bodies and traffic in front of their goalie as you can, and you want to make things easier for your goalie to see pucks, as well. I think at every level you’re told to box out and clear the front of the net, but especially at this level. The talent that our goalies have, if they see the puck, they’re going to stop it.”
If some folks were only willing to take off the blinders and give this guy a chance, they would be looking forward to the upcoming season, like the majority of Habs’ fans do. That would mean putting the personal agenda and vendetta aside though which, has they have shown too often, isn’t likely in the cards. For the rest of us, we’ll pick and choose what we read and we’ll enjoy the team assembled by team GM Marc Bergevin. Go Habs Go!