With the bitter taste of a 3-0 loss to the league’s best team still pungently occupying his mouth, a 6 ft 4 man with significant stubble finally stumbles out of bed. It’s 1 PM on a Monday, and, as he’s felt for a while, he can’t escape the lasting feeling of incompleteneess. He sighs longingly at the face-down picture frame on his bedside. “You don’t need to do that to yourself man”. He turns towards the voice, to find a butt naked Scott Hannan offering him a Coors Light while he fiddles on his Iphone.
“I’m good Scotty, thanks”
“You sure Man? Okay then. Don’t worry bud, you’ll get your mojo back” He says, as he drops Shea Weber from his fantasy team.
850 miles north, in a Saint Paul Minnesota private gym, Ryan Suter let’s out a quiet sob as Justin Falk enthusiastically whips the Racquetball by him yet again. “That’s 6-0 for me Ryan! Another game? Another game? Come on Ryan, what do you say, another game?” Suter had become accustomed to constantly losing. “Whatever man” he says, depressed.
In 2011-2012, Weber had 19 goals. Suter assisted on 11 of them (58%). Weber had 30 assists, 12 of which Suter helped with the conversion (40%). Suter influenced 46% of Weber’s points last year. That’s a massive loss. The powerplay is crazier. Suter had the primary assist on 70% of Weber’s goals, and had an assist on 80% (8/10) of them.
Count the number of times this year that Weber is salivating on the point and the puck doesn’t find him in the dead middle of his stick. It’s most of the time. That’s what happens when you’re consistently playing with a different partner for the first time in 6 years. Weber’s offense has slid accordingly.
In Twelve games into the season, 25% of the shortened year, Weber is disappointing in just about every numeric category. He has one point – an assist – compared to one goal and four assists at this time last year. In 2011 – 2012 Weber averaged 2.9 shots per game; that stat is down to 1.6 in the start of this year. The quality of shots is way down too. If Weber scored on his next shot, he would have a 0.036 shooting percentage, compared to a 0.083 in last year’s season. In fact, he has the lowest production in the league, with a single point in 319 minutes of ice time. 20 minutes more than second lowest Andrew MacDonald (NYI). Last year he had a point for every 41:39 minutes.
But let’s talk Defense. He has a +/- of 0, while averaging 26:38 minutes a game on the team that has the lowest goals for in the league. Night after night he plays big minutes against the NHL’s top lines. This is next to Scott Hannan, a 1 million dollar, 34 year old defenseman who had 12 points last year (granted, he is probably playing the best hockey of his life right now). He’s ranked 14th in defenseman in hits. The last pro-Weber argument is simple. Watch him play. He still looks good. He’s still doing the right things. He has top minutes and is looking good doing it.
Ryan, on the other hand, is the opposite. Playing with a team that is a bit more offensively talented, Suter has 6 assists in 11 games. But he is a team worst -7. He is missing a talented defender to play alongside. He made mistakes in Nashville, but they weren’t noticed because, more often than not, Weber would pull his weight (sometimes literally) and everything would work out. At 6’1, 198 pounds, Suter doesn’t have the body presence that Weber did. He will always be a brilliant set-up man, but without Weber, his defensive skills lack.
They were the NHL’s perfect pair. They complemented each other’s skills and, due to their time together, knew exactly where the other would be. Neither are the same without the other. But Weber is coming on top, to no one's surprise, as the better D-man. He isn't converting as much this year, but I think we need to get off his back from that for now. He is still playing good hockey, and he's not one of the league's worst in +/-.