WINNIPEG, MB — Dale Weise has been an interesting player to follow for the Habs. When the trade was announced it was a confusing swap, to say the least. While Raphael Diaz had not scored as often as Canadiens fans would have liked at the time of the trade, he was still a very serviceable defenseman, and a right-handed shot at that. Dale Weise was, in most observers’ estimation, a fringe NHLer.
For many, it was an easy win for Vancouver. Picking up a top four defenseman in exchange for a bottom six forward was a coup of a deal. Marc Bergevin giving up a skilled right shot on the blue line for a checking line winger was illogical. But then, the playoffs happened. Dale Weise managed to score four points in 17 regular season games after being acquired from the Canucks. But, in the playoffs, he put up seven points over 16 games, including twoi game winning goals. This, according to some writers, was a “clutch” performance. And I was certainly along for the ride.
I enjoy statistics. I appreciate the fact that data can make sense of a series of events, and give you some idea of a predictable outcome. For me, the use of analytics in hockey has made the game much more enjoyable. The problem to me is the fact that it seems you need to pick a side, and stick to it.
If we were to look at Dale Weise from a statistical standpoint, the picture is not as nice as “Playoff Hero” Dale Weise. Most of his scoring chances are due to the fact that he leaves the defensive zone too early, creating a defensive liability if the outlet pass doesn’t hit him. He doesn’t have a great shot. Possession wise (CF%), he’s mediocre, at best.
Statistics lend logic to an illogical situation. While there are elements of randomness in hockey, there are also patterns to be found, examined, and analyzed. Max Pacioretty is not “clutch.” Pacioretty is a skilled hockey player who will have a tendency to score meaningful goals because he is a player that is very good at scoring goals.
When I talk about hockey, I tend to shy away from terms like clutch, heart, and grit. But if Dale Weise’s playoff run was not the most clutch combination of heart, grit, and 110 percent effort in recent Habs history, I don’t know what is.
All this being said, and I understand it’s a lot of back and forth, I love Dale Weise. It’s a completely illogical love. Michel Therrien’s insistence at having him in the top six is infuriating. His unwillingness to play sound defensive hockey is aggravating. But when the Dutch Gretzky is flying towards the net, his golden locks flowing in the wind, I get giddy.
As I continue to write articles based in statistics, I’m hopeful I will be able to show off an appreciation for players, even if their overall statistics don’t necessarily warrant the attention. There is certainly something to be said for stories like Dale Weise, or Brandon Prust, even if they lack the finish of a player like Pacioretty or Brendan Gallagher.
Watching the Canadiens play has been a significant part of my life. Growing up in Manitoba, away from La Belle Province, I waited and waited for the few Saturday nights when the Canadiens played the Leafs, or by some miracle, trumped them for that early game. We would head out to the game if at all possible when the Habs would come to Winnipeg to play the Jets.
I spent hours memorizing the player stats off the back of hockey cards, trying to guess if my favourite players would be able to match their points from the last season. I was born in the 80’s, so I did not have the luxury of choosing from the talent of the dynasty years to pick my hockey heroes. I followed players like Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller, and Peter Popovic. Some were good players, maybe even great. For others, I just really liked their names.
While I enjoy stats, and always have, I try not to get too caught up in them. I do find that in some ways, if I’m focusing too much on different numbers during a game, I lose a little of the enjoyment. But, when analyzing shortfalls or breakout performances, analytics help to provide a baseline in the numbers we’re looking at, and I find that to be extremely valuable.
When overused, players like Weise and Prust are aggravating. While I appreciate their contributions, they are very clearly bottom six players. When used effectively, they add a great dynamic to the team, and some decent secondary scoring to boot.
Dale Weise is the latest in a long list of gritty players to maybe get a little too much rope from their coach. The NHL is a league in which coaches are going to have a favourite player, someone who’s leash might be undeservedly long. Narrative loves an underdog, and players like Weise provide such a character.
I can’t deny that when he’s on his game, he is a ton of fun to watch, and I don’t doubt his value in the room, but the ice time given to him over more skilled players is frustrating to watch, to say the least. If, as fans, we could trust that Therrien would use Weise as his skills seem to dictate, he would be a great asset.
While my incredibly analytical brain loves the order that statistics bring, one of the greater joys for me as a sports fan as to watch aberrations to expected results.
And that is why I love Dale Weise.