Just under a year after Shea Weber signed his offer sheet for 14 years and $110 million, the Canucks struck back at the league with a Weber signing of their own. In theory, signing a defenceman named Weber should have been enough to rejuvenate an otherwise dissatisfied fan base during what was described as a silent free agency period.
Unfortunately, the fine print read “Yannick” and not “Shea”, so it makes sense that this signing was approached with the mildest of interest. People looked upon this move as one with relatively little risk involved and potential for middling upside.
That’s about as good as the market will yield at one-year for $650,000. When you keep that price-tag in mind, along with Weber’s age (just 26 years old) and serviceability, it’s hard to suggest Vancouver didn’t get more than they paid for last season.
For more on that, and what to expect this season, you can find me on the other side of the jump.
At his best, Weber provided the Canucks with an additional wrinkle of offensive potency from their bottom-pairing last season. At his worst, Weber was used as a fourth-line forward, by the greatest Canucks coach ever. This just describes Weber’s first season with the Vancouver Canucks. It’s easy enough to forget, but Weber had a lengthy spell with the Utica Comets for almost all of November.
In essence, I’ve just described what most teams have come to expect of their seventh defenceman. At 25 years of age though, it’s not imperceptible that there is more to the Swiss defender. At times last season, Weber flashed that offensive upside from the point with his blistering shot on the power play. A testament to this unabashed approach to getting pucks on net would be Weber’s respectable 5.97 shots/60mins. Relative to his role on the club and the constant switching from forward to defenceman, that’s a great shot rate.
Weber also provided the Canucks with a speed and shiftiness in the neutral zone that has often been remiss of this club’s blueline. Thanks to the tireless work of Corey Sznajder, it is estimated that Yannick Weber entered the offensive zone with control about 33% of the time. That’s best among Canucks defencemen, but I am curious as to how much of an effect that aforementioned fourth-line time affected this. Regardless, he played well in the neutral zone.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for 50% of the Canucks current Swiss quotient, though. Despite all Weber was able to accomplish offensively, the Canucks were a better team without him on the ice last season by most metrics. Playing in roughly ten minutes of even-strength time a night last year, Weber had the second lowest Corsi Rel. of Canucks defencemen. This wouldn’t be so concerning, if not for the fact that Weber played the softest minutes of any Canucks regular last season.
Then again, it isn’t often that a club’s seventh defensemen is driving the possession bus. Especially not at the 25 years of age that Weber was at last season. Nor are they ever expected to play difficult minutes. As a depth defenceman with the ability to contribute on the power play, Weber exceeded my expectations for last season.
Weber enters this season with a role eerily similar to that of last. For the time being, at least, Weber is the club’s seventh defenceman. If his Swiss counterpart, Luca Sbisa, carries his pre-season misery over into the regular season, it seems plausible that Weber could supplant him as the club’s number six. For the moment though, he waits. Injuries and necessity for a booming right-handed shot will be Weber’s likely calling cards into the Canucks lineup.
For the club, that’s ideal. Weber hasn’t traditionally been a possession driver, and seems to need the most courteous of deployments to see the results offensively that he does. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that — so long as it’s not in the top-six. Even Weber’s neutral zone play – which stood out among Canucks defencemen – can’t make up for his inability to play well in his own zone. There’s something to be said for having strength on the puck in the defensive zone, and Weber just doesn’t.
That’s not to say that at some point Weber won’t get his shot. In fact, I really do think he has a chance of Weber uprooting his countryman Luca Sbisa for the six hole on ‘D. Whether it’s because Sbisa is just that bad, or there’s more to Weber than meets the eye, I couldn’t say. Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle?