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Game #71 – Hawks vs. Canadiens Spotlight: Does Shea Weber Fit Anymore?

It’s been three seasons now, so the shock of the Shea Weber-PK Subban trade has worn off. Subban has gone on to anchor a Cup-contender for his entire time in Nashville, while Weber’s record in Montreal is much more spotty. Canadiens diehards (read: sycophants) would tell you that all of Subban’s teammates hate him in Nashville, as they did in Montreal, at least according to the tinfoil hat brigade. Sadly for the Habs, Weber hasn’t been around all that much to generate any kind of opinion amongst those who share his colors.

Weber’s scoring has maintained its usual pace. It’s just a tick below what he did in yellow, but he’s been better than a point-per-every-other-game. The problem is that Weber hasn’t been able to make the bell that often of late. He only played 26 games last year, and missed an additional 23 this year. Now, that’s all due to one knee surgery, but a large, physical d-man on a repaired knee is not the optimal situation. Still, before that Weber was the picture of stability, never missing more than four games in a year.

Digging a bit deeper, Weber has never really been a great metric player. He hasn’t carried a possession-rate above his team’s rate since 2012. He’s never been all that far below it either, but he’ll go as the team goes. His scoring-chance relative numbers are pretty much the same. Where Weber has excelled in the great chances department, as he’s been above the rate in high-danger percentage in the past four seasons. That has continued this season as well, though not as high as the past three.

The question for the Canadiens is does Weber fit into the new world they’ve created. Weber was brought in back when the Habs were under Michel Therrien and were still under the impression they had to be knuckle-dragging, frothing swamp creatures that chased the coveted-by-morons label “hard to play against.” When that resulted in exactly dick, the Habs have spent the past year transitioning into a smaller, faster team that tries to get up the ice as soon as possible. Play off the rush, carry the puck through the neutral zone and and into the offensive one, and try and generate chances before the other team can get set up. It’s parroting or copying what the Penguins and Knights and others have done recently.

Weber is still a gifted passer, but especially on a surgically-repaired knee he’s never been all that quick. Maybe Weber can adapt to flying passes from his zone to the other blue line to streaking forwards. He’s going to have to. He’s never been one to carry the puck himself, that’s what Roman Josi was for in Nashville, and Ryan Suter before that. But if you’re stationary, that means quicker and quicker forechecking forwards can get to you before you hit those outlet passes. Even if Weber can open himself up now, he’s 33 and coming off knee problems. How much more time until he can’t?

Which is obviously a problem, because as you probably know Weber is signed until the Earth’s heat-death. These days his $7.8M hit doesn’t look as bad (wait until Gustafsson asks for this in the summer of ’20), but it’s not insignificant either. We all knew this when the move was made, obviously.

The Canadiens didn’t have to move too much comfortable furniture to upgrade to this lightning-bug team. Max Pacioretty didn’t really fit, but he was leaving anyway and he hasn’t fit all that well in Vegas either who do the same thing. Karl Alzner ended up in the AHL. But they may soon find they have the biggest decision to make yet.


Game #71 Preview Suite




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