The Detroit Red Wings chose to let longtime center Valtteri Filppula walk this summer in free agency, and a big reason they were able to do so was knowing they could get their hands on former Florida Panthers forward Stephen Weiss. As players arrive in Detroit for informal skates before training camp, Weiss has said and done all the right things so far, but for as much as he has suggested he “isn’t here to replace anyone,” the fact of the matter is he needs to be able to produce 50-60 points while centering the team’s second line.
After watching their free agent acquisitions from the summer of 2012 (Mikael Samuelsson, Jonas Gustavsson and Jordin Tootoo) battle injuries and fail to have much of an impact last season, the pressure is on for Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson when the 2013-14 campaign kicks off. Filppula scored only nine goals while registering 17 points in 41 games, so it won’t take much for Weiss to be more productive than that. An injury may have limited his playing time last season, but Weiss has put up 57 or more points in three of his last four full seasons, and that was while playing for a Panthers team that was by far less talented than the Wings team he now joins.
Head coach Mike Babcock has slated Weiss to center the second line, with Johan Franzen playing on his wing. Alfredsson, Gustav Nyquist or Justin Abdelakder could slide in on the other wing, giving Weiss some talented players setting him up to find the back of the net. One of the biggest knocks on Filppula was his inconsistency and occasional lack of competitiveness, and Weiss brings with him a reputation that suggests he won’t have a similar problem. After nine seasons of toiling in Florida, the opportunity to play for a playoff contender like the Wings should have Weiss incredibly motivated. If he’s truly healthy, it could be a banner year for him and Franzen as well.