After looking utterly disorganized during the 0-2-2 stretch they stumbled through prior to their current road trip, the Detroit Red Wings have found a level of consistency they’ve not displayed since the season began.
However, the Red Wings’ collective success of late lays bare the continuing lack of success of one player in particular—Stephen Weiss.
The Red Wings have outscored their opponents 11-4 through this winning streak and 15 individual players have at least one point over the past three games, but Weiss is not one of them.
Weiss’ continuing struggles as a Red Wing (2G, 0A minus-three rating in 15 games played) will soon present the Red Wings’ coaching staff with the unenviable task of figuring out exactly what to do with him.
Weiss has noted his frustration in not being able to adapt quickly to life as a Red Wing, a life that includes expectations and a level of everyday excellence Weiss never experienced during his entire career with the Florida Panthers.
Weiss is indeed searching for his place in Detroit; the problem is, there really is only one spot he can possibly fill, and that is the one he was brought in to occupy in the first place.
With the return of Darren Helm to the Red Wings lineup and the growing success of Joakim Andersson, the Red Wings’ bottom six center positions should be set, and solidly at that, moving forward.
After an epic 19-month span of seemingly neverending injuries, Helm returned to the lineup in dramatic fashion against the Edmonton Oilers, scoring on his first shot of the game, which eventually stood up as the game-winner.
Andersson, who has displayed sound defensive play throughout the season, seems to be hitting his offensive stride as he has recorded three points (1G, 2A) during the Wings’ current winning streak.
As Helm is being eased back into the lineup, he will likely continue to center the fourth line for the next few games.
However, as Mike Babcock has noted to MLive.com’s Ansar Kahn, he believes Helm to be “the best third-line center in the NHL” and he will surely regain that position in time, leaving Andersson to take over on the fourth line.
This brings us back to Weiss.
With Helm and Andersson anchoring Detroit’s bottom two lines, Weiss really has no options other than to find a way to solidify his role as a second-line center.
Then again, what about the Red Wings’ options?
While it’s true that head coach Mike Babcock could try moving Weiss to the wing in order to jump-start his performance (you know, kind of like what he did with Valtteri Filppula), Weiss has played the center position his entire NHL career, and having him flank someone else at this point could only make his struggles worse.
Babcock could certainly opt to sit Weiss for a game or two, not for any punitive reason, but simply to give his mind a break and observe a team and a system he has yet to fully comprehend.
Then again, sitting expensive players is never a popular decision for a team and may only serve to compound Weiss’ frustration.
While it is way too early to even think about moving Weiss or God forbid buy him out, should he continue the rest of the season as he’s begun it, such options might start to appear realistic over the summer.
But, let’s not got ahead of ourselves—we just recently broke the seal on the 2013-14 season.
Whether it’s Weiss finally growing into his role or the Red Wings figuring out a heretofore unknown role for the 30-year-old veteran to occupy, the Red Wings won’t have to worry about asking any tough questions about Weiss for a while yet.
Then again, if his team continues to succeed without Weiss’ help, those questions will start coming, leaving Detroit to consider what could be some unpleasant options.