Difficult Start for Weiss the Wing
Stephen Weiss joined the Detroit Red Wings on a 5-year, $24.5m deal in the summer. Thus far, it hasn’t been the smoothest of transitions from one team to another.
Weiss has just 2 goals and 3 points in 17 games for the Red Wings, and is currently sidelined with with a groin strain.
But why has one of the most coveted players of recent seasons struggled so much with his new club?
Weiss was one of the best players available via free agency this summer, but his ‘availability’ had been talked about long before July. His future in Florida became increasingly clouded as he approached unrestricted free agency, but a season ending wrist injury ultimately kiboshed any trade last year.
Weiss was some way off his best even then though – scoring 1 goal and 4 points in 17 games for the Panthers, with whom he had spent his entire NHL career.
Perhaps that is part of the answer as to why the transition from Florida to Detroit has been a difficult one. The Red Wings organisation prides itself on getting the best from its people, every single day. It demands it even.
Florida on the other hand, well, shall we say the demands are not as high…
The expectation is also much different as a result. Despite being arguably the best player on the Panthers, the spotlight rarely shines on the organisation; both within Florida and the sport as a whole. It is much easier to ‘mail it in’ for the odd game or two when scrutiny is less intense and the lack of alternatives guarantees a safe spot in the line up.
In Detroit however, hockey is a major part of the landscape in the city and the Wings are one of the sports most well known teams. The spotlight is always on; whether that is what drives the franchise to demand the best or it is something of a symbiotic relationship at this stage – it’s still a major shift in culture for Weiss.
Plus of course, Weiss has played less than 40 games in the past 18 months.
The 30-year old was signed to fill the Wings 2nd line centre role; to give the team an effective secondary scoring presence to support superstar veterans Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
That is still likely the role he will fill; but there are clearly issues he needs to overcome to play at the level expected of him. Mike Babcock spoke to the Detroit Free Press at the end of October, and acknowledged both the issues, but also that Weiss needs to do his bit to get back on track:
When you come to a new place and the place you’re playing expects to win, that has a way to tighten you up. But that’s part of mental toughness, fighting through that, and he’ll do that. And we have to help him become comfortable. But he’s got to do his part, too.
The Toronto native clearly has much to do, and the struggling Wings (3-2-5 in their last 10) will be hoping Weiss is fit and firing again soon. Because ifnot, 5 years is a long time and $24.5 million is a lot of money – even to the Red Wings.