March 15, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver (43) reacts after suffering an apparent injury during the first period against the Boston Bruins at the BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Florida Panther Player Rating: Mike Weaver

With the 2011-12 season sadly in the rear-view window, it’s once again time for The Rat Trick to take a look back at those who had the biggest impact on the the Florida Panthers. Over the coming days, we’ll look at review everyone who had key roles in the past season and give them the dreaded letter grade.

A traditionally unfortunate and downtrodden team like the Florida Panthers does not often find diamonds in the rough for their team.  In perhaps a sign of the new direction of the franchise or just by plain luck, the Panthers now have found two on the blue line: Jason Garrison and Mike Weaver.

The latter has turned into possibly the Panthers’ steadiest player.  His stats speak for themselves:

Games Played: 82

Goals: 0

Assists: 16

Points: 16

PIM: 14

Hits: 114

Blocked Shots: 137

My favorite number there is the top one – 82 games played.  Mike Weaver is a man that will lay down big hits, make diving poke checks, and throw his body in front of shots.  And even with all that wear and tear on his body, Dream Weaver still gets right back up and is ready for his next shift.  The man is borderline-invincible: he played all 82 games the year before for the Panthers doing the same gritty stuff.

If there is one stat up there that would hurt Weaver, it would be that big goose-egg the the goals column.  But people familiar with his playing style know thay scoring goals isn’t at all necessary.  The solid defense he provides from the blue line more than makes up for what he lacks on offense.

But that’s not to say that Weaver is inept in the offensive zone.  On many different occasions over the year, he pinched the zone well, put pucks on net, and played pitch-and-catch with his fellow defenseman just fine.  I get the sense that Mike Weaver could score goals, but that would go against the grain of his hockey philosophy.  Weaver is a shamelessly defense-first guy.  That made it even more of a shock when Weaver scored the game-tying goal in the Panthers’ comeback victory over the Devils in Game 3.  The man works so hard, so he deserves every goal he happens to score.

Considering the small cap hit Weaver takes up (900k last year), Weaver brings great bang for his buck.  He’s not flashy, but he’s responsible, and Dale Tallon loves this guy.  Point and case, Weaver was awarded a new two-year deal during the season, paying him $1.1 million a year for two more years.  It’s a well-deserved contract that will pay off for this playoff team.

Final grade: A

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