The Detroit Red Wings took a very large risk by signing former Florida Panther Stephen Weiss to a five-year contract worth nearly 25 million dollars last July. Needless to say, that will be the biggest understatement you will read on the internet today.
Weiss, who will turn 31 in April, has had what can be best described as a “turbulent” professional career in the NHL. After averaging 76.5 points in his first two years with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, Weiss was drafted 4th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and would eventually go on to become Florida’s franchise leader in both assists and games played. The name Stephen Weiss would eventually go on to become synonymous with the Florida Panthers.
His time in Florida wasn’t exactly a healthy walk in the park by any means. In his first full season with the Panthers he missed five games with a broken toe, followed by a second season that featured a ten game stint with Florida’s AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage and a 20+ game absence with a sprained knee/season ending broken leg. In the 2005-06 season Weiss missed half of the 82 scheduled games with a serious wrist injury.
But it wasn’t all missed games and trips to the emergency room for Stephen during his stint with one of the NHL’s most “unsuccessful” teams over the last two decades. When not sidelined with injuries Weiss actually managed to have several productive years with the Panthers. Between 2006-2012, years in which he played a majority of the regular season, he averaged 56 points and made one brief Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in Florida’s Quarterfinal loss to the New Jersey Devils in 2012, a seven game series in which he would score three goals and two assists.
Now to bring things into the present day. Weiss was brought into Detroit with hopes that he could command a second line unit and allow the “Euro Twins” to be kept together. As we all know that pipe dream would not come true due to the myriad of wounded Red Wings this season, including Weiss. Coach Mike Babcock told Weiss at the beginning of the season he expected a 50 point year out of him and that he probably wouldn’t enjoy his time in Detroit if he didn’t produce those types of numbers. So far in 26 games played with the Red Wings this season, Weiss has only been able to scrounge up a measly 4 points and a -4 rating.
And those numbers aren’t going to cut any Detroit hockey fan’s mustard.
Weiss hasn’t played a game for the Red Wings since December 10th after catching that nasty groin injury bug that continues to work it way around the Detroit locker room and plaguing players left and right this season. He underwent a sports hernia surgery on December 23rd and has been on the mend ever since. After getting in a few informal skates with his old team the Plymouth Whalers recently during the Olympic break and possibly eyeing a couple of conditioning games in Grand Rapids, everybody in Hockeytown and Weiss himself are hoping for a productive return to action soon.
Obviously as a Red Wings fan I want Weiss to come back in and produce some points, but as a hockey fan in general, I would also like to see him be the professional hockey player that Florida believed he could be when they drafted him 4th overall over a decade ago. Beneath all the physical scars and mental blocks that may or may not exist within him, I believe that there is still a good hockey player in Stephen Weiss. If the Red Wings hope to keep their 22 year playoff streak alive, a healthy and productive Stephen Weiss would go a long way in aiding in that cause.
After all, that’s what we are paying him for.
So in conclusion, get well soon Stephen, come back and score some goals!