When Dale Weise won the fastest skater competition at the Canucks Superskills on Sunday to the tune of “Highway to the Danger Zone,” the reaction from Canucks fans was one of incredulity. Even Joey Kenward seemed shocked at the arena, saying, “I know a lot of your teammates are going to be surprised that you won the fastest skater competition, but you’re not surprised at all.”
Weise’s deadpan reaction was perfect: “No, not at all.”
The shock was understandable. When you think of speedsters on the Canucks, the names Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, and Jordan Schroeder come to mind. Maybe you think of Keith Ballard, who won the fastest skater competition last year and whose mobility is his greatest asset. Weise typically doesn’t even enter into the discussion.
In fact, Canucks fans generally have a low opinion of Weise, mainly because of the role they see him playing. When the Canucks picked him up off waivers from the New York Rangers last season, it was essentially because Steve Pinizzotto got injured during the pre-season and their next best option was Victor Oreskovich. Weise was coming in as a fourth-liner and was expected to do typical fourth-line stuff: bang, crash, fight, sit on the bench.
The problem is that Weise is not a particularly good fighter. While he’s a willing combatant (most of the time), he’s not the kind of guy who strikes the fear of God in the opposition. Since he didn’t fight particularly well and only scored 8 points in 68 games, some Canucks fans decided he wasn’t much use and needed to be replaced.
This opinion, however, ignores how Weise was used. Along with Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre, Weise started the vast majority of his shifts – nearly 80% – in the defensive zone. The fourth line last season had a simple job: win the faceoff, clear the defensive zone, maybe get a shot from the outside to force an offensive zone faceoff, and get off the ice. That entire line acted as an enabler for the Canucks’ offensive-minded forwards.
The only player that started more frequently in the defensive zone than Weise was Malhotra, who would come on for defensive zone faceoffs with other lines as well, leaving the ice as soon as the puck was cleared.
What also gets ignored is that Weise was an NHL rookie last season. For Weise to earn enough of Alain Vigneault’s trust to be used in such a key defensive role speaks volumes. It’s worth noting that Weise finished the season just minus-1 and had the lowest goals against per 60 minutes of ice time of anyone on the Canucks last season, despite being used in primarily defensive zones situations.
Weise is a big body at 6’2″, 210 lbs and has the looks of a typical lumbering, stone-handed, poor-skating goon. But that’s not who he is. As demonstrated on Sunday, Weise has speed to burn, and his point totals in junior and the AHL show that he has some skill to go with it.
Weise’s time in the Netherlands brought that skill to the forefront and he started this season strong, catching people’s attention with his confidence with the puck. Unfortunately, all that confidence didn’t result in much: the Canucks shooting percentage with Weise on the ice is 0%.
Let me repeat that: 0%. That’s right, the Canucks haven’t scored a single goal with him on the ice. The next lowest on-ice shooting percentage on the team belongs to Chris Tanev at 5.08%.
This would be less surprising if it wasn’t for the fact that Weise has actually created scoring chances and been a positive possession player for the Canucks. Weise’s Corsi rating is currently 3.18, indicating that the Canucks are getting more shot attempts for than shot attempts against when he is on the ice.
While Weise was on of the Canucks’ best skaters to start the season, the bounces simply haven’t gone his way, and Weise has fallen down the depth chart and is back on the fourth line. You could also see him struggling to get his timing, often taking a moment too long with the puck, likely because he was used to having more time and space in the Netherlands, but he still had 10 shots in his first 5 games and with 15 shots in 11 games is set to eclipse his total of 48 shots from last year, even in a shortened season.
Last Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild is a good example. Though he had just over 8 minutes of ice time, Weise had 3 shots on goal, including a memorable sequence where he took a wrist shot from the wing, then drove the net for his own rebound, nearly chipping it past Niklas Backstrom, and then even managed to set up Aaron Volpatti for a great scoring chance in the slot as he battled for the puck.
That’s a clear example of Weise doing all the right things – getting the puck on net, driving hard to the goal, winning puck battles, and keeping his head up to create opportunities for his linemates – and not getting rewarded.
This is the other side of PDO regression to what I wrote about Jannik Hansen, whose on-ice shooting percentage is 14.81%. With Hansen, random chance is going to swing in the other direction, the puck will stop going in the net, and people will start to wonder where his game has gone and why he’s not scoring as much as he did earlier in the season.
With Weise, the bounces will eventually go his way and he’ll get rewarded for going hard to the net and creating scoring chances. It would just be a shame if this cold streak to start the season took away his confidence or that his diminished ice time on the fourth line gave him fewer opportunities when the percentages swing back in his favour.Tags: dale weise, Statistics, Stats