Stephen Weiss had been an important part of the Panthers‘ success over the first half of the season. His focus on being a well-rounded, two-way player, has been the key. There have been criticisms of Weiss over the past 9 seasons despite the fact that number 9 has played an important role on the team. He’s been thought of as not clutch, and described as someone who doesn’t score enough for a forward who was picked 4th overall in 2001; but it is hard to argue that Weiss isn’t on pace to have the best year of his career.
On New Years Eve, against the Montreal Canadiens, Weiss tied Olli Jokinen‘s franchise record of 231 assists. He is on pace to have a career year with 11 goals and 22 assists at the halfway mark. The stats, however, only sketch the picture. What has been adding some color and detail, has been the balance of his offensive and defensive abilities.
While it doesn’t make for the best statistic, the plus/minus rating can show whether a forward is helping out defensively. We all know this from the plus/minus numbers of Michael Frolik and David Booth, two players that are no longer regularly enjoying South Florida’s weather. Weiss had a very average 2010-11, ending up with 21 goals, 28 assists, and a -9 rating. The -9, was his worst since 03-04, when he was a -10 over just 50 games. During the offseason, Weiss got to work on his defensive game, the result being a +14 (25th of all players in the league) through 39 games.
You can shoot holes in this by pointing out that Weiss has been on the most productive line he has ever been on (Versteeg 17 goals, 28 points) (Fleischmann 15 goals, 34 points). The Panthers, however, are still winning games; even when this “Flashmob” line has been slumping. Much of this has to do with Weiss’ strong faceoff percentage, as he has won 53.9% of them. As far as what the numbers don’t tell you, Weiss never appears lazy on the ice. He plays with heart, and hounds the opposing team on the forecheck; as well as in behind the Panthers own net.
This makes a difference that fans don’t always see. For the Panthers, or any other team in the NHL, to win consistently; they must play strong defensively. Weiss’ defensive skills make him much more valuable to the Panthers, than a player who doesn’t have a defensive game, like say; Ilya Kovalchuk. As to whether or not he is a clutch player, I’ll point to a shorthanded goal Weiss scored on November 21st, in the remarkable comeback against the New Jersey Devils at the BankAtlantic Center.
On a side note, congrats to Flames Captain Jerome Iginla on reaching the 500 goal mark on Saturday night. On the same night, Coyotes Captain Shane Doan, recorded his first career hat-trick, after 39 two-goal efforts over 1,161 games; against the New York Islanders (with .1 of a second remaining in the game).
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Tags: David Booth Flashmob Line Florida Panthers Hat Trick Ilya Kovalchuk Jerome Iginla Kris Versteeg Michael Frolik Montreal Canadiens New Jersey Devils Olli Jokinen Shane Doan Stephen Weiss Tomas Fleischmann