When Stephen Weiss signed a five-year, $24.5 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings, I thought it was a great deal for general manager Ken Holland. Henrik Zetterberg is an amazing top-six forward who often rotated between wing and center, so adding Weiss gave the team a viable second-line center.
With the Florida Panthers, Weiss was a quality 60-point center, so it was assumed he’d produce on a deeper team. Things haven’t gone to plan thus far for both parties, and Weiss just made his return to the lineup on Monday after a conditioning stint in the AHL.
The 31-year-old veteran scored two goals in Monday's victory over the Ottawa Senators, and now that he appears to be healthy, what kind of impact can Weiss have for Detroit? If he is deployed in the same manner going forward that he was against the Senators, his return to the lineup can address one of the team’s biggest needs.
Secondary scoring has been a sore spot for Detroit thus far this season. The top lines featuring Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Johan Franzen, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have produced. The bottom tier of Darren Helm, Tomas Jurco and company has not.
|Detroit Red Wings Scoring by Line|
|Gustav Nyquist (13)||Henrik Zetterberg (18)||Justin Abdelkader (14)|
|Tomas Tatar(13)||Riley Sheahan (10)||Johan Franzen (13)|
|Stephen Weiss (2)||Pavel Datsyuk (11)||Darren Helm (8)|
|Drew Miller (3)||Luke Glendening (3)||Joakim Andersson (2)|
|Tomas Jurco (6)||Andrej Nestrasil (2)||Daniel Cleary (6)|
|Points by NHL.com, Combinations via game vs. Ottawa|
There isn't the level of talent in the bottom six that there is in the top six, so it is understandable. Weiss' return should help address this, because he has a proven track record of thriving in situations in which he doesn't have optimal support.
Consider some of the Panthers' other scorers during his years in Florida. During the 2011-12 season, top-line winger Tomas Fleischmann tallied 61 points, fellow top-line winger Kris Versteeg accumulated 54 points and then there was a drop to Tomas Kopecky, who finished with 32 points.
The year prior, second-line center Mike Santorelli had 41 points, first-line winger David Booth had 40 points and second-line winger Cory Stillman finished with 23. If you think about it, the last time Weiss really had some support was when Olli Jokinen tallied 91 points and Nathan Horton accrued 62 in 2006-07.
In the current model, Weiss is being asked to log average minutes, and he’s also getting second-unit power-play time. Ultimately, this should put him somewhere between 10 to 13 minutes per game, and if healthy the rest of the season, he may be able to produce 40 points in the remaining 61 games.
That would give him 42 points in 63 games, or a 0.66 points-per-game average. That equates to 54 points a season, and that is something that is attainable for a healthy Weiss.
Back in 2011, Corey Sznajder of Shutdown Line looked at Weiss, and the observations made then are still true today:
Weiss has been in the league for about nine seasons now and since the lockout, he has been averaging about .66 points per game. That puts him around the same company as Tomas Plekanec, Nik Antropov, Ryan Kesler, Travis Zajac and David Legwand. He’s just a really good two-way center who a lot of teams would love to have but not someone who they would base their franchise around.
Throughout his career, Weiss has had a reputation as a two-way center with some offensive upside, which is that what he can bring to the Wings’ bottom six. He's a solid skater with good wheels, a consistent faceoff man and is decent at holding onto the puck despite being 5'11" and 190 pounds.
Detroit had bigger plans in mind when they inked him to the deal they did. However, at this point they should look past the contract, and just realize he can complement and area of their roster that really could use some help right now.
The Wings have been motoring along early on in 2014-15, and the addition of Weiss should make the roster, especially the bottom six, stronger for the rest of the season.