Filling in Valtteri Filppula’s shoes may not be the biggest of tasks, but the Red Wings are hoping that their second-line center Stephen Weiss won’t be as invisible as he is in this above photo.
Weiss’s line didn’t produce last night, so naturally it’s reasonable to completely panic and accuse Ken Holland of making a mistake by signing him. I mean, in a game that Mikael Samuelsson can score, a guy like Weiss should have no less than four goals, and with Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson has his line mates that should have made for at least ten assists. In fact, multiply all of that by two since they were playing against Buffalo.
Realistically, with linemates like that, this could be a good year for Weiss. He may not have dazzled last night, but he was more than adequate for the Wings’ 2-1 win in their home opener. Everyone’s favorite beat writer Helene St. James caught up with him afterwards:
“I think the sky’s the limit for us,” Weiss said. “To be able to play behind Pav and Z and Abby is going to be huge for us. We’ve got to make sure we take advantage of that and be dangerous offensively and support them as much as possible.”
Weiss may be right to be optimistic at his line’s potential. They combined for 8 shots on goal last night, good for 24% of the Wings (I rounded up, deal with it). Consider that Thomas Vanek lead the league in goals for a good while last year and Buffalo was still terrible. Also consider that Tampa Bay had the Art Ross winner Martin St. Louis and was still so bad that they landed the 3rd overall draft position. Bottom line- depth wins championships. Z, Datsyuk and Abdelkader are great, but without something strong to back them up, it’ll only get you so far.
Mike Babcock also spoke with Mz. St. James and as one could imagine, he see’s some potential with that line but it doesn’t necessarily hinge on Weiss:
Coach Mike Babcock tabbed Franzen as the key to the line’s success because “he’s a dominant player. … We’ve got to get him to go every day. If he goes every day, it makes it way easier for Alfie and Weiss to do what they do.”
Babcock touched on having the trio as a second tsunami, too. “If you have 1A and 1B, versus 1 and 2, it makes it way easier for you to run your bench.”
The idea of Weiss up on the first line isn’t quite where I expected him to be, but the debate of what to do with Datsyuk and Zetterberg has been going on since they were first together on the same line. Do you put all your eggs in one basket or spread them to two different lines for double the scoring threat? This sort of idea has been put into practice by Mike Babcock, particularly when Zetterberg played with Filppula and Jiri Hudler two years ago and tore it up. Although he is an elite player, having Zetterberg on the second line is often benefial, if nothing else to make it harder to defend against. Weiss gets this opportunity for now, but we’ll see where it takes him.
Furthermore, Babcock touches on another point of what the second line really hinges on, which is Franzen. If the second line followed the crew formula presented in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Alfredsson would be the brains, Weiss would be the muscle, and Franzen would be the wildcard. Sometime he’s the glue that holds the line together. Sometimes he’s the saving grace, and sometimes he’s an overpaid bum for weeks on end. My favorite example of this started on February 2nd 2011. Franzen scored 5 (!) goals in one game, against the Ottawa Senators nonetheless. Everyone was fawning over him, media everywhere was seeking him out for interviews, and fantasy owners were tripping over themselves to pick up Johan Franzen. He then proceeded to close the rest of the year, 27 games, with two goals. Guys go through hot and cold streaks sure, but the weather is more consistent than Franzen’s scoring.
This may not bode so well for Weiss, as he and Alfredsson may largely be remembered on how the click with Franzen and the production that follows. He can make them look like they’re on fire, but he could also be a bum leg in a three-legged race. Alfredsson will at least have a power-play unit to distinguish himself on. Weiss may not always have this opportunity to distinguish himself.
Then again, they may just need more time to click. Training camp is a month long but it can’t compare to actual games. The only thing for certain right now is that all eyes will be on Weiss to see what he does with his chance at rebirth with the Detroit Red Wings.