by Forechecker on 09/29/08 at 02:19 PM ET
Perhaps nobody on the Nashville Predators has more to prove this season than Shea Weber; long celebrated as an up-and-coming defenseman and sometimes compared to draft classmate Dion Phaneuf (that 2003 group was stacked with good defensemen), Weber would appear to have all the tools of a top-flight blue-liner. He’s big, tough, has a powerful one-timer and is an agile skater. Last season it was hoped that he would step into the void left by former captain Kimmo Timonen, but a knee injury on the first shift of the first game pretty much derailed his year.
So far in training camp, we’ve seen a bigger, badder Shea Weber; he’s reported with some additional muscle, and appears to relish the challenge of being the highest paid defenseman on a playoff-caliber team. So just how far will Weber take his game this season?
|Shea Weber Production & Ice Time, Last 3 Seasons|
|GP||EV Pts/60||PP Pts/60||EV TOI/G||PP TOI/G||SH TOI/G|
Assuming decent health, Weber should expect a bump up in power play time, as his point shot will be one of the primary weapons in the Nashville arsenal. In the two preseason games he’s played in so far, he’s averaging 3.5 shots per game, and since he launched 2.8 per game last season, it’s not unreasonable to project him firing around 3.0 per contest this year, and taking a crack at topping his career best 17-goal season of 2006-7. If the Predators power play is to rise from the depths of the NHL rankings, it will likely be due to Weber more than anyone else. Opposing penalty killers will have a devilish choice on their hands; stay up high on Weber and leave Jason Arnott open for a one-timer, or cover Arnott and leave Weber open at the left point.
Expect big #6 to pepper the net this season
Photo Courtesy Paul Nicholson
The other question, of course, is how Weber’s defensive game will grow; currently Dan Hamhuis seems to get the majority of the top-line matchups, and if Shea wants to be considered one of the best defensemen in the game he’ll need to produce at both ends of the ice. The difficult part there is that quality defensive work is usually the result of doing the unremarkable things right consistently, as opposed to making the huge hit that fires up the crowd and fills out a highlight reel. As a young guy gunning for NHL stardom, the temptation to drive his opponents through the boards sometimes gets the better of him. The task for Barry Trotz this year will be knowing how to how to keep Weber hungry and motivated, while not losing the focus that is essential to a sound, team-oriented game.
So for the official Forechecker’s Forecast…
|Forechecker’s Forecast, 2008-9 NHL Regular Season|
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