Nashville Predators fans love the fact that Captain Shea Weber (left) plays with an ‘edge.’ But is the ‘Angry Shea’ we’ve seen most of this young season actually giving the Preds an edge? Weber was fined $2500 Friday for this boarding/unsportsmanlike hit on Vancouver forward, Jannik Hansen in Thursday night’s 5-1 loss to the Canucks at Rodgers Center. It was the Predators’ fourth loss in a row (Photo: Ben Nelms/Reuters).
Shea Weber, the Nashville Predators Captain, hasn’t been in a particularly good mood lately, and who can blame him? His team, after a fan-inebriating 7-1 preseason record, looked to be ready to take the next step in their development. They seemed primed to pick up where they left off, learning from the heady experience of advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season for the first time in franchise history.
They were justifiably hopeful that the added year of experience to last year’s goal-scoring leader, Sergei Kostitsyn, along with the addition of highly-touted rookie, Craig Smith, would be the shot in the arm they would need to become sufficient enough offensively to go deeper into the playoffs. That heightened goal-scoring potential was further augmented by the addition of free-agent forward, Niclas Bergfors, a half-a-point-per-game player his four seasons in the NHL, who was a double-digit goal scorer in two of those campaigns.
They looked at the solid goaltending of Vezina Trophy runner-up Pekka Rinne, the world-class blueline combo of Weber and his partner, Ryan Suter, all three of whom are playing for a contract beyond this season; in Weber’s case, with the opportunity to solidify the value of his enormous one-year arbitration award of $7.5 million that expires next July 1st.
Everyone felt good going into the season, but after impressively winning their first two on the road, the team all but completely canceled them out with two unsightly home losses in regulation and the shootout, followed by another pair of embarrassing road performances; the latest of which was Thursday night’s re-definition of ‘rock-bottom’ in Vancouver; a 5-1 embarrassment that featured a total of 30 penalty minutes by the Predators, including six by Weber alone.
Nashville now finds themselves on a four-game losing skid going into Saturday’s matinee in Calgary, and they have not looked good doing it
Is it any wonder Weber is angry?
I believe the better question is whether or not his anger is helping matters.
One of the stalwart catch-phrases of late 1970s pop culture has had a revival over the past several years. The Marvel Comics franchise of films dedicated to creator Stan Lee’s stable of classic 1960s super-heroes hit the big screen as if by way of an assembly line a little more than ten years ago, beginning in earnest with 2000’s X-Men.
Spider-Man would follow two years later, and would be joined throughout the new millennium’s first decade by sequels of the aforementioned, as well as other modern big-screen interpretations of comics studs, The Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, and here in the ‘teens,’ Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers.
However, the sort of ‘anti’ super hero out of Marvel Films came out in 2003; The Hulk, directed by Ang Lee breathed even greater life into the cult classic weekly TeeVee series of the late 70s-early-80s starring Bill Bixby as Dr. Bruce Banner, whom via a Gamma Ray experiment gone bad was transformed into The Incredible Hulk; a creature driven by misguided anger; a kind of non-malevolent brute whose inner intentions were good, but whose outer actions were out of his control. The transformation of Dr. Banner into his green behemoth alter-ego was never permanent, but always triggered by anger.
“Don’t make me angry,” Bruce Banner would warn. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
The phrase has become a kind of tag we now like to flippantly cast upon those in the sports world who ‘play with an edge.’ By virtue of his play so far this season, it’s rather apropos to the Shea Weber.
Weber’s Angry PIMs in 2011-12
|10/15/11||New Jersey||4||cross-checking + roughing|
Weber has twelve penalty minutes in six games so far this season. During the 2010-11 campaign it took him 15 games to collect that many. And the type of penalties he’s accrued have been ‘angry’ penalties like roughing, boarding, cross-checking (which occurred in Thursday night’s loss in Vancouver and could just have well been called boarding, IMO), unsportsmanlike conduct; these are not penalties of effort. These are not what anyone could construe as ‘honest’ penalties, but rather are penalties of frustration; borne of losing one’s cool. These are penalties for being out of control.
Most penalties come as a result of being beaten, positionally, by an opponent on the ice. They’re the “beat me once, shame on you” kind-of-moments that every player faces from time-to-time, regardless of talent. You really can’t control them, apart from learning from your mistake and playing smarter and the next time; out-working your opponent, physically to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Angry penalties are just the opposite; they’re the reactionary, “beat me twice, shame on me” moments; they’re proof that your opponent isn’t just beating you physically; he’s beating you mentally as well.
Webs isn’t used to being beaten, period.
Weber already has half as many angry penalties, just six games into this season than he had in all 82 games 2010-11, when he was penalized for losing his cool in 24 out of the 56 minutes he spent in the Sin Bin overall. Moreover, it took him until January 16th last season to collect as many angry PIMs as he has right now.
Weber’s Angry PIMs in 2010-11
|11/13/10||Chicago||6||cross-checking + roughing double-minor|
|2/27/11||Columbus||4||cross-checking + roughing double-minor|
Shea has 19 shots on the season, yet no goals and according to my observation, he’s has had as many penalties as genuine scoring chances. And while that may be a big part of his frustration, it shouldn’t be all that foreign to him either.
In all but his breakout season of 2008-09, when he established career highs in goals (23) and points (53), Weber has always been a relatively slow-starter, scoring-wise. Over the last two seasons he’s taken until games #8 and #7, respectively, to score his initial marker of the year.
He should take heart, however; he scored on shot #19 in game #8 last season, and on shot #18 in game #7 of 2009-10. The way I figure it, he’s gonna score no later than next Tuesday at home versus the San Jose Sharks, or Saturday afternoon in against the Flames on his first shot. He’s due.
However, Weber’s beating a path to the penalty box isn’t likely to help the Preds out of their funk. The team needs to get back to what makes them successful: out-working the opponent, and when they don’t, working harder until they do. That’s Predators Hockey.
Employing the ‘if ya can’t beat ‘em, beat ‘em up’ philosophy isn’t within this team’s culture, nor their makeup. Weber has to know that and lead according to that premise.
Perhaps the closeness to which he came to suspension, along with the $2500 fine imposed by NHL Czar of Discipline, Brendan Shanahan late Friday has gotten his attention. I’m sure that Coach Barry Trotz did; and that of the entire team after ripping them a new one following Thursday’s debacle in Vancouver.
The normally cool and collected Trotz displayed Lee Elia-type candor in describing how poorly his team had played during a post-game tirade that was as entertaining as it was soul-cleansing. It typically takes a lot to get Trotzy worked up like that, but the Preds have succeeded.
They shouldn’t make him angry.
We don’t like him when he’s angry.
Well, we do…but you know what I mean.
* * * * *