The Canucks made a minor roster tweak Tuesday morning, claiming winger Dale Weise off waivers from the New York Rangers, and waiving Victor Oreskovich in his place. For many, including Oreskovich himself, probably, the move comes as a surprise. Just who is Dale Weise (apart from the guy from the Gatorade fail video) and why do the Canucks think they’re a better team with him than with Oreskovich?

Weise, a 6’2″, 209 lb. native of Winnipeg, was taken 111th overall by the Rangers in 2008 (20 spots before the Canucks drafted Prab Rai, if you care). He signed an entry-level contract the following fall and has spent the past three years with the Rangers AHL affiliate — then the Hartford Wolfpack, now the Connecticut Whale.

His first season was okay, but Weise really began to put things together at the pro level in 2009-10, his second year. He registered 28 goals, 50 points, and 114 PIM, and established himself as a versatile power winger. He hit, fought, checked, scored in bunches, played in all situations, and cemented his role as one of the stars of the team. Connecticut head coach Ken Gernander compared him to Brandon Dubinsky.

Last season, Weise looked to improve on those numbers but, due to injuries (and a month-long callup with the Rangers), he didn’t. Still, he put up 18 goals and 38 points, number that, on a per game basis, are better. From Rangers.com:

What made Weise’s AHL season so impressive was that he managed to produce despite a series of injuries that caused him to miss more than 20 games in addition to the month he spent playing in the NHL. Had he been healthy all year, he would have easily surpassed his career-highs of 28 goals, 22 assists, and 50 points, because his points-per-game average jumped from 0.68 in 2009-10 to 0.81 last season.

At some point last season, the Canucks began to take notice of Weise, and according to Pierre Lebrun, they even attempted to acquire him. It didn’t happen, but imagine Mike Gillis’s surprise when Weise showed up in the “take one” pile this morning.

With the Canucks sitting at the 23-man NHL roster, putting a claim on Weise meant that they had to lose a player, and since Weise projects as a fourth-line winger (at least to start), it made sense to jettison one of Volpatti or Oreskovich.

So why Oreskovich? I know Canuck fans are conditioned to look for cap trickery under the Mike Gillis regime, but no, it had nothing to do with money: both are on-two way deals that pay $605,000 at the NHL level, so the Canucks gain no additional cap flexibility by claiming one and waiving the other.

Rather, this was an actual hockey move by a team looking to improve at a position where they felt they were weak.

The coaching staff wasn’t high on Oreskovich. While Volpatti made the team with his play, Oreskovich seemingly made it by default, after injuries to Byron Bitz and Steven Pinizzotto left a spot wide open for him. Vigneault said as much last week. From Brad Zeimer:

Vigneault did not exactly give Oreskovich a ringing endorsement, almost suggesting that had Steve Pinizzotto not separated his shoulder on Sunday night against San Jose, Oreskovich might have been heading to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

“In Victor’s case, with Steve Pinizzotto getting hurt, he is the guy we have there right now,” Vigneault said after Friday’s practice. “I thought he played a little bit better in the last couple of games and I’m expecting him to continue to improve.”

Second, while Weise gives up a little size on Oreskovich — about an inch and fifteen pounds, he’s just as physical, and he more than makes up for the lack of mass with actual hockey ability. That matters. If the decisions to let guys like Tanner Glass, Mario Bliznak, Guillaume Desbiens, and Alex Bolduc go elsewhere this offseason didn’t tip you off, the Canucks are looking to build a fourth line that can take regular shifts and, dare I say it, contribute.

Oreskovich can crash and bang, to be certain, but that’s about it. In 140 AHL and NHL games combined over the past two years, Oreskovich has tallied 12 goals and 36 points. As I mentioned above, Weise had 18 and 38 last year alone.

Weise has the potential to move up the lineup, either permanently, or just for the odd shift here and there, and Alain Vigneault, a chronic line-juggler, has to love that. Canuck fans no doubt remember the way AV liberally sprinkled Tanner Glass about his lineup: many nights, Glass played shifts on the fourth, third, and second lines, and he had nowhere near the upside and versatility that Weise has, especially according to Weise:

“I’m perfectly comfortable playing on the fourth line and being an energy guy, and having to drop the mitts and stand up for teammates whenever I have to,” he said. “I’m more than willing to do that. But at the end of the day, I think once I kind of get going and am playing at that level, I think I can probably be a third-line guy, and if I need to step in and help on the second line, I think I can do that. I have proved at every level that once given an opportunity, I kind of work my way up and continue to score.”

Weise will have the opportunity to prove it at the NHL level with the Canucks.

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17 comments

  1. BECanucks
    October 4, 2011

    My only question is: is the 4th line of the rangers THAT better than ours? Because if it isn’t and this guy was not good enough there, why is he going to be good enough here?

    Well, I still think MayRay may see some time on the 4th line when he comes back… Depending on how Sturm will produce…

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  2. J21
    October 4, 2011

    I have no issue with taking a flyer on Weise. I very much have an issue with the waived player being Oreskovich rather than Volpatti.

    Am I the only one who sees decent hands on Oreskovich? Not “going to score lots of goals” hands (his AHL totals more or less extinguish any notion of that), but “getting the puck out of trouble by making an actual play” hands?

    I mostly liked what I saw last year from Oreskovich and the size is a nice thing to have. I don’t see how Volpatti gets the nod over him.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      October 4, 2011

      I think it has to do with the player type. The Canucks want one energy guy and one big, versatile depth forward. Volpatti, like Rypien last season, is the energy guy. Oreskovich, like Desbiens last year, is the depth forward. But the Canucks felt Weise was a better fit in this regard.

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  3. Sleepy Lewis
    October 4, 2011

    Any ideas why the Rangers released him? How’d he do in the preseason? Don’t just give us the sunny side, we need the dirt too…or just say you don’t know what his possible downside is.

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  4. DRB
    October 4, 2011

    So I have Sedins and Burrows….Hodgson with Hansen and Samuelson? Malhotra with Lapierre and Higgins..Then who Volpatti, Sturm and Weise?

    Im a little nervous about the start without Kes and Mason!

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    • Harrison Mooney
      October 4, 2011

      More like, Sedins & Burrows, Hodgson, Sturm, and Samuelsson, Malhotra between Higgins and Hansen, and Volpatti, Lapierre and Sturm.

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      • Ryan
        October 4, 2011

        You think Vigneault’s going to double-shift Sturm? ;)

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        • Daniel Wagner
          October 4, 2011

          The article’s about Weise and Harrison’s already forgotten him.

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    • Jim
      October 4, 2011

      Sturm is not going to play on the 4th line and Hanson will be on the 3rd. The lineup that is going to start the season is:
      Sedin-Sedin-Burrows.
      Sturm- Hodgson-sammulson
      Higgins-Malhotra-Hanson
      Weise-Lapierre-Volpatti

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  5. itsentertainment
    October 4, 2011

    I hope Oreskovitch clears waivers. I hate to be negative, but the Ballard/Oreskovitch trade isn’t looking so good. What bothers me are the implications of the Coaching staff not being fans of Oreskovitch. It seems that there is a disconnect between Gillis or the scouts and Coach V when it comes to what type of player makes a good 4th liner. None of the guys that they picked up this off season are likely ever to stick with the big club (I am not thinking of Sturm as I say this).

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    • Daniel Wagner
      October 4, 2011

      And yet, the Canucks just acquired Weise. Gillis also signed Steven Pinizzotto, who looked set to make the 4th line out of camp until he got injured. Lapierre and Volpatti were both acquired by Gillis and Vigneault seems to like them just fine.

      I don’t think it’s as simple as the coaches “not being fans” of certain players. They just have certain expectations for the quality and style of play that players may not live up to at a certain point of time. Oreskovich certainly has the potential to be a good 4th liner and, at times, he was that player last season. Just because they think that another player may be better, doesn’t mean they’re not fans of the other player. They’re attempting to build a winning hockey team: being a fan doesn’t enter into it.

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    • Jim
      October 4, 2011

      Pinizott (spelling) and Bitz say hi, they are injured and would have stood a good chance to make the team if they are healthy and may be back during the season once they are healthy.

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      • BeCanucks
        October 4, 2011

        I think part of the new guys picked were also “welcoming gifts” for the Chicago Wolves. We lost a couple of these players that could go back and forth between the big club and the minors (Desbiens, Bolduc, Blizniak, even Tambellini)

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      • Harrison Mooney
        October 4, 2011

        I know, should be interesting to see what happens now. You know that the fourth line guys are on very, very short leashes. Part of me suspects that, unless he’s lights out, Volpatti gets sent to the minors the moment Pinizzotto is healthy. As for Bitz, he’ll get a conditioning stint and then the Canucks will have to make a decision.

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        • Allan
          October 5, 2011

          A previous article on Oreskovitch stated that he did not have to clear waivers.
          Is this true and therefore he is being offered to other teams in the league to clear his salary from the wolves?

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          • Harrison Mooney
            October 5, 2011

            Not sure. We may have just been wrong.

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          • Daniel Wagner
            October 5, 2011

            From my reading of the CBA, I thought he did not need to clear waivers. It appears that I was incorrect. Shoot.

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