Jun 11, 2013
Photo Credit: Sarah FuquaTweet
Last July, Predators fans waited with bated breath as the team decided if it would match Shea Weber’s offer sheet from Philadelphia. Ultimately, management decided the captain was worth paying $110 million over 14 years. Some fans felt betrayed that Weber would put the organization in that position to begin with, but most would agree that matching the offer was in the best interest of the organization. Would he live up to the expectations as the highest paid player in the NHL?
From One Year to the Next
Weber had his second highest career point total in 2011-2012, notching 49 points in 78 games. His plus/minus was +21, good for best on the team. He was also a Norris Trophy finalist.
He finished the 2012-2013 season with a respectable 28 points. He led the team in points (28), assists (19), TOI (25:55), and SOG (124). Most importantly, he failed to lead the team to the playoffs for the first time as captain.
Beyond the Stats
Weber finished second on the team in penalty minutes with 48 minutes spent in the box. This doesn’t seem like a big deal until you compare it to the prior campaign when he had 46 PIM in 30 more games. Penalty minutes are not innately a bad thing, but every minute spent there by #6 is a win for the opponent. The team’s best player needs to be on the ice, not watching from the sin bin.
Although he is probably best known for his offensive game including a 100+ MPH slapshot, Weber’s defensive game is equally important to the team. Not only does he lead the power play, but he leads the penalty kill unit as well. The Predators’ penalty kill was terrible last season, finishing second to last in the NHL at 75.5%. Weber was not the sole culprit, but he would be the first to tell you that he needs to be more efficient at keeping the puck out of the net when the opponent has the man advantage.
Without a Suter
Ryan Suter famously left Nashville to join Minnesota where he had an excellent, Norris-finalist caliber season. Adjusting to life without Suter did not prove to be an easy task for Weber. He started the year with Roman Josi, was briefly paired with Scott Hannan, and then returned to playing with Josi. Things started off slowly, as the captain registered just one point in his first 13 games. The Weber/Josi duo started to develop chemistry as the season went on. Josi proved to be a serviceable line companion and should continue to get better.
Unfortunately for the Predators, the void left by him on the second defensive pairing was never filled. Kevin Klein had a great year, but never found a consistent partner.
Best of Weber
Is there any doubt that Weber’s best moment of the season was his overtime winner at home against the Red Wings? It was his third consecutive game with a goal and his only game-winning goal on the year.
Once the season ended, rumors starting swirling about Weber’s future with the team. People speculated that he would be traded during the offseason. Weber quickly squashed the gossip when he publicly expressed his commitment to the team.
Weber will almost certainly stay paired with Josi on the top line. This duo will continue to log heavy minutes and contribute in a variety of ways. They will lead the powerplay and possibly the penalty kill as well. It is doubtful that they will ever be at deadly as Weber/Suter were for so many years, but they can still be an elite pairing.
Weber should be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate for years to come. Nashville has an arguably the best tandem of defenseman and goalie in the league with Weber and Rinne. With hopes that it can continue to build around these franchise players to put together a Stanley Cup contender, maybe the Predator’s fourth overall draft pick this year will evolve into creating a second edition of the “Big Three” for years to come.
FINAL GRADE: B
I jokingly asked a friend who knows little about hockey what grade he would give Weber for the season. He responded with this gem: “The team was terrible and Weber is responsible since he is the captain. I give him a C because of that.” While this seems a little harsh, the logic isn’t too far off.
For almost any other player, Weber’s season would have been excellent. By his lofty standards, however, it fell slightly short of expectations. Still, he did lead the team in multiple statistical categories and was one of the league’s best defensemen once again. We give him a solid B.