When Stephen Weiss signed with the Detroit Red Wings, it came as a surprise to me. I figured that the Wings would fill the loss of Valtteri Filppula with one of their young guns, either Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar. Instead, they bring in an experienced pivot in Weiss and while he won't ever be nominated for the Selke trophy, he isn't a defensive liability either.
At 30 years of age, Weiss still has a lot left in his gas tank and playing for a perennial winner instead of a sad sack squad will do wonders for his mental health. One huge benefit is that he'll now line up as the second line center, avoiding the tough checking assignments/match-ups that first lines typically face.
Weiss will likely line up with Johan Franzen and one of Daniel Alfredsson, Justin Abdelkader or Gustav Nyquist. Personally, I think Abdelkader is better suited to the third line, as he has limited offensive upside, but he does skate well and is a pain in the butt to play against. I'm sure that Zetterberg and Alfredsson would like to play together, and Nyquist showed some serious talent in limited minutes last year. It would be fun to see what he could do with regular top six minutes on a line with Weiss and Franzen.
I'm completely writing off last season when forecasting how many points Weiss might garner this year. In three of his previous four campaigns, Weiss averaged around 20 minutes of ice time per game. In 2008-09, he scored a career best 61 points while averaging only 17:48 minutes per contest. The real question that needs to be asked is will Weiss play on the top power play in Detroit? He has averaged 3:25 minutes with the man advantage and 20 power play points over each of those four years.
Last year, the Wings top three forwards with the man advantage were Pavel Datsyuk (3:49), Henrik Zetterberg (3:33) and Johan Franzen (3:30), but Damien Brunner (2:58) and Valteri Filppula (2:43) garnered decent power play ice time. It is reasonable to expect that Weiss effectively replace Brunner or Filppula's minutes with the man advantage, but don't count on top power play time for him on this team.
Still, Weiss is going to turn in a very nice rebound year points-wise, but be careful not to overvalue him. He will play with more talented wingers than he had in Florida and not face the top line defensive match-ups he is used to seeing. On the flip side, he probably won't play as much with the man advantage. Count on 50-plus points from the former Panther.
No one was more surprised that he was bought out by the Sabres than Nathan Gerbe himself. He was scheduled to make $1.85 million this season, instead his salary will be $550,000 or $150,000 if he's demoted.
In his final year at Boston College, Gerbe was college hockey's top scorer with 35 goals and 68 points in only 43 games. In his professional debut the following year, he recorded 30 goals and 56 points in 57 AHL games, taking home the Rookie of the Year honours.
In 2010-11, Gerbe had his best season to date in the NHL, scoring 16 goals and 31 points in 64 games. That year, his most frequent line-mates were Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta and he averaged 13:19 of ice time per game, including 1:16 on the power play. Gerbe followed that up with 25 points in 62 games.
Last year was not so kind to the diminutive left winger as he registered a mere 10 points in 42 games. He received only 11:27 even-strength minutes per game, twelfth on the team and less than a minute per game on the power play, ninth on the team. Over the last couple of seasons, he has had to deal with a concussion and back surgery and with his lack of size, he has yet to prove that he is durable. Gerbe hasn't played more than 64 games in an NHL season.
The now 26-year-old should start the season in the top nine. He'll compete with a trio of prospects in Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe for a roster spot. With the injury history of Jeff "Principal" Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu's 63-year-old body, there may even be an opportunity or two during a full season for one of these guys to step in and audition for a spot in the top six.
Gerbe has all sorts of motivation for the coming season; a one-year, two-way contract, proving to the team that drafted him and eventually bought him out that they were wrong and of course a wicked case of small man syndrome. The diminutive left winger will be out to prove the Sabres and the rest of the hockey world that they made a mistake.
If you want a deep sleeper, don't overlook Nate Gerbe late in your draft.
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