Stephen Weiss A Look Back, And Hoping To Step Forward

MAR 29, 2012; St. Paul, MN, USA; Florida Panthers forward Stephen Weiss (9) checks Minnesota Wild forward Devin Setoguchi (10) to the ice in the third period at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Panthers 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-US PRESSWIRE

In the beginning of his career Stephen Weiss dominated. However it wasn’t in the NHL just yet. Weiss played for Plymouth Whales of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). During his OHL career, Weiss put up fantastic numbers. His great play was good enough to impress a number of scouts who would have him highly ranked. In his rookie season in the OHL Weiss scored an impressive 66 points. This type of play was good enough to earn him a spot on the OHL First All-Rookie Team.  Following an impressive rookie season, Weiss came back stronger than ever. In his second season in the league, Weiss put up an extraordinary 87 points. After putting up a combined 153 points Weiss was considered one of the top prospects for the NHL draft.

Due to his incredible success in with the Whales, Weiss was drafted 4th overall in the 2001 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers. In the 2001-2002 season Weiss returned to Plymouth for what would be his final season with the team. Despite a dip in his numbers, Weiss finished strong with the Whales, scoring 70 points in only 46 games. Weiss made his NHL debut for the Florida Panthers during the final couple of weeks left in the season. During the seven games that he played, Weiss was able to accumulate two points scoring a goal and an assist.

In his first full NHL season Weiss scored 6 goals and accounted for 17 assists in 77 games. With plenty of talent and a ton of potential, Weiss received the opportunity to play in the NHL YoungStars Game in front of his Florida fans at the Office Depot Center (now Bank Atlantic Center). The Young Stars game was good to Stephen as he recorded two points; a goal and an assist, as his team went on to win 8-3.

The following season wasn’t so kind to Weiss. Weiss was having a hard time adjusting to the way then head coach Mike Keenan coached the team. Because of his difficulty in keeping up with the coaching style, Weiss was assigned to the Cats AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. After a 10 game stint with the Rampage, Weiss returned to Florida for the remainder of the season. However the season didn’t get any better. He missed the majority of the season with a knee sprain and a broken leg.

Hoping to return strong the next season, Weiss put in hard work to not only get better as a player but also to get healthy. Weiss’s luck still wasn’t on his side. After coming back to full strength and being anxious to return the team, the NHL was going through labor disputes. The NHL decided to lockout the season. Weiss found himself in a place he didn’t want to be, the AHL. Weiss had a quality bounce back season with the Rampage scoring 38 points in 62 games. With Weiss having a good season, he was sent to the Chicago Wolves as a loan. Weiss was able to taste his first shot at a championship as a professional. Chicago made it to the 2005 Calder Cup Finals, where they would end up losing to the Philadelphia Phantoms in the 7th game of the series.

With the NHL returning for the 05-06 season Weiss re-signed with the Panthers. With a new contract he was ready to his value. With high hopes and expectations over the next few years, Weiss would be under considerable pressure to perform. However,  the 05-06 season turned out to be one of his worst and most frustrating years as a pro. Weiss suffered a serious wrist injury and was forced to miss a good portion of the season. Weiss returned to the Panthers the next year but was forced to miss more time with knee and shoulder injuries. Even though he was having a hard time staying healthy, the Panthers knew that he still had a ton of potential. The following offseason, Weiss and the Panthers came to a contract agreement that would keep him in Florida for the next six years. Looking to improve his statistics and health Weiss came back with a strong showing during the 2007-2008 season. The following season was finally where Stephen wanted to be. The 2008-2009 season was finally the season that he broke-out. Weiss flourished under new head coach Peter DeBoer. This wasn’t the first time these two crossed path as DeBoer coached Weiss throughout his junior hockey career. Weiss was able to get a career high 47 assist and a career high 61 points. Weiss was able to stay healthy throughout the season, only missing four games. The next season was a bit more balanced for Weiss. He brought his goals up, scoring a career high 28 goals while also being credited with 32 assist. With back to back successful seasons Weiss wanted to make it a third straight season scoring 60 or more points. With Weiss setting high goals for himself, he was struck with disappointment. His stats dropped severely, scoring only 49 points and with new GM Dale Tallon, Weiss was became the center of trade talks for the Panthers.

Feb. 26, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss (9) controls the puck during the third period against eh Montreal Canadiens at the BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

This season, Panther fans saw the return of the old Stephen Weiss. Weiss has been having a solid season and with more weapons around him than ever, Weiss doesn’t always have to be “the guy” to lead the team. On February 23, 2012 Weiss set a franchise record for games played in a Panthers uniform, playing in his 614th game as a Cat. Even after all of his time with the Panthers, Weiss has yet to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and he is extremely hungry to participate in the postseason. This year has been his best opportunity to finally make it to the playoffs. Weiss has been not only been a leader during the season he has also helped the team by recording his third 50 or more point season. Out of Weiss’s 55 points this season, 36 of them have come from assist. Despite Weiss scoring 7 points in the past 8 games, Weiss still needs to step up for the team. Being an alternate captain for the team, Weiss must continue to help educate and mentor younger players such as Shawn Matthias, Mike Santorelli, and Wojtek Wolski. With Weiss’s experience and ability to play the game at a high level he should be fine as the Panthers try to maintain their four point lead over the rival Washington Capitals.

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Topics: Florida Panthers, OHL, Plymouth Whales, Stephen Weiss

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