Shea Weber’s absence was certainly felt at the beginning of last season but he made a big impact upon his return. What should be expected from him if he can stay healthy for all of 2019-20?
The start to his season was delayed after a small knee cleanup in the summer turned into an injury that cost him the first 24 games of the campaign. After missing as much time as he did, it would have been reasonable to ease him into things. That didn’t happen as he played over 25 minutes in his first game and nearly cracked the 30-minute mark in his sixth game of the season.
Fortunately for the Habs, there wasn’t much (or any) rust in his offensive game as he made an immediate impact with 11 points in 16 games before the turn of the calendar. He wasn’t able to do much for the ailing power play in terms of percentage although he did lead the team in power play goals. However, the man advantage ran almost exclusively through him at times and that strategy just didn’t work.
Weber’s return also allowed Jeff Petry to drop back to the second pairing which really helped the back end. However, their roles seemed to flip towards the end of the season. Weber seemed to really struggle down the stretch which resulted in Petry leading the way in ATOI in several games. Whether it was the lack of offseason training and training camp, an injury, or the fact he was 33 (now 34), it’s something that will be lingering in the minds of many heading into 2019-20.
Season Stats: 58 GP, 14 goals, 19 assists, 33 points, +15 rating, 28 PIMS, 5 PPG, 3 GWG, 166 shots, 23:29 ATOI, 53.8 CF%
5 Year Averages
There shouldn’t be many questions when it comes to Weber’s role. It’s safe to pencil him onto the top pairing at even strength. It’s far from a given who will be on the left side (Victor Mete is probably the favourite) but we know that Weber is in the RD1 spot.
When it comes to special teams, he’s a guarantee to be on the top power play unit like he usually is. There at least seems to be some discussion about where he’ll be situated though. Instead of just being at the point where he usually is, the team could bring him towards the faceoff dot to make his shot more of a threat. There’s some extra risk in pulling a defender away from the blueline should the Habs turn it over (one of the ‘strengths’ of the power play last season) but it could also result in an uptick in scoring for him.
Speculatively, I wonder if they may try to ease his load on the penalty kill. Petry is quite capable of playing in that role as is newcomer Ben Chiarot. If they could move Weber down to the second unit, that could take a bit of wear and tear off. Even if they did though, he’ll still be a key part of their shorthanded lineup.
Despite Weber’s role being a near certainty and his history of being a productive player, his output is actually a little tricky to predict. While he has been a durable player throughout most of his career, he has been anything but over the last two seasons where he has managed to appear in just 84 games. In other words, he’s missed basically one year out of the last two (and played through injuries in several of the games he suited up for). Is that a sign of things to come? He is approaching 1,000 career games played (regular season and playoffs) so there is a risk of things starting to break down at some point.
That uncertainty is going to probably cause him to drop a little bit lower than he’d usually go (which is in the top 10-12 among defenders in most leagues). That means there’s a bit of potential upside although the injury risk will be there as well. Weber will still pick up a lot of goals and be part of the triple 100 club (shots/hits/blocks) which means he’ll be a very valuable fantasy option. I like him as a number two option for most leagues which should slot him in around the 6th to 8th round which will make him one of the first Habs off the board.