Shea Weber: A Mountain Of An Impact

Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock nicknamed him Man Mountain. He was voted by his peers the most difficult defenseman to play against. He is one of the best leaders in the entire NHL. He has the most feared shot in the league. His teammates call him “Dad”. David Schlemko was recently quoted saying that he’s “stupidly strong”. Young Jesperi Kotkaniemi said that he almost peed himself seeing his shot come at him on the powerplay. He is the team captain and, in spite of missing an entire year, he’s playing like an All-Star. 

Shea Weber is… well, Shea Weber. With him back, the smallish Canadiens have all grown a couple of inches. Everyone is benefiting from his return and yes, even Jeff Petry who did extremely well in Weber’s absence, but whose ice time was ridiculously high. But what is the impact of Weber on the Habs exactly? 

Weber returned to action on November 27th and prior to the game in Minnesota, he had played six (6) games. His personal results? Three (3) goals, two (2) assists, five (5) points. A differential of plus -5 with 24 shots on goal and 20 hits (3.3 hits per game, tops on the Habs). He has solidified the penalty kill units and has provided another weapon to an otherwise pretty anemic powerplay. 

Beyond Weber’s stats

When you talk about Weber, players think leadership and while (some) fans may see that as overrated, people around hockey know the importance of having quality leadership. Habs’ players are no different. While this was a pretty solid and tight group to start with, Dad is back and it shows. 

Since Weber’s return, the Canadiens have a 4-2-0 record. They have tightened their defensive play, allowing only 13 goals (2.17/GP) on 163 shots (27.1/GP). They have also scored 20 (3.33/GP) and fired 243 shots on goal (40.5/GP). Better defense, more offense, which usually means more wins than losses. 

Carey Price has benefited from Weber’s return.

But none has benefited more of Weber’s return than goaltender Carey Price. Struggling with consistency since Man Mountain was shelved last season, we are starting to see the confident and dominant Price that we love in Montreal. In the last six games, Price has stopped 150 of the 163 shots in his direction for a respectable .920 Sv%. His goals’ against average during that time is 2.19. 

Before the season started, I had predicted that if the Canadiens were in a playoffs’ race by the time Weber came back, they would be in the playoffs in the Spring. While this is still a young team with ups and downs, I still believe that unless catastrophe hits again, they will play hockey well into April. Go Habs Go!

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The Captain’s Return – Domino Effect

It’s been a while. As a matter of fact, it’s been too long. Fans missed him. Coaches missed him. But none missed him as much as Carey Price and while others have stepped up their game in his long absence, they simply can’t replace him. He’s big and strong. He defends. He hits. He shoots the puck… hard, very hard. He quarterbacks the powerplay. He is key on the penalty kill. He plays against the opponents’ top lines. He eats up minutes in a game, quality minutes. And he’s the undisputed leader. For the first time since the start of last season where he broke his foot in game one… he’s healthy and ready to go!

It will be an emotional day for Shea Weber when he sports his number jersey number six and that, for a couple of reasons. Yes, he will find the letter ‘C’ on his upper left chest, something that he is truly honored to do. But mostly, it will be his first NHL game since December 16th of last year, when he was shut down for the season. A few surgeries and a long rehab later, his hard work to come back playing seems to be finally over. And everyone is happy about it… expect his opponents and a few P.K. Subban fans in the Canadiens’ fanbase. 

Jeff Petry has done well, very well during his absence, but he’s no Shea Weber. While the team has performed admirably well so far this season, well beyond what “experts” predicted for the first quarter of the season, the Habs’ struggles on defense have cost them some important points. “Dad”‘s return will push everyone down one notch in the depth chart and that’s a good thing. While he won’t be in game shape and will likely show signs of rust for the first week or two, until he catches up to the rest of the league, Weber will bring some stability at the backend in front of Carey Price and Antti Niemi. Further, he will bring a much needed joult to a powerplay in dire need of something… anything.

Making room on the roster

Victor Mete

With Weber back, Petry will slide to the second pairing and, at the same time, it will provide Claude Julien‘s group with another much needed right-handed defenseman, something lacking since the facial injury to youngster Noah Juulsen. At the time of writing this, there has been no decisions made about who will be sacrificed, either by trade, waivers or simply sent down to Laval. If Marc Bergevin can’t find a taker for one of his veteran defensemen prior to Weber’s anticipated return, Victor Mete could very well be sent down for the simple reason that he doesn’t have to clear waivers. This would obviously be a temporary solution until the Canadiens’ GM finds a trading partner.

While nothing has been decided quite yet, the defense pairing could look something like this:

Kulak – Weber

Reilly – Petry

Schlemko – Benn

(Alzner – Ouellet)

(Juulsen IR)

Okay, this group won’t instate fear of God into any opponent and it won’t compare to Nashville, Calgary or Minnesota’s group, but the addition of Weber will make opponents fear the front of the net and the boards a bit more, and it will make opposing goaltenders and penalty killers aware that there’s a canon of a shot coming at them. It’s a step in the right direction, although if the Canadiens are serious about making a push for a playoffs’ run, they will need to find a way to use some of their available cap space to land a good puck-moving left-handed defenseman. Go Habs Go!