Standing at 5-foot-10, Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver is not the ideal size for his position. Weaver never gets the credit he rightfully deserves by analysts mostly because he’s not a flashy or game-breaking type player who draws attention. It’s actually the opposite that Weaver does which sets him apart and makes him Florida’s most reliable defenseman. He does the little things a defenseman should do in the NHL to be successful, like blocking shots and taking chances away from the opposition. The undrafted, Michigan State Spartan, has taken the road less traveled to become a full-time NHL player. Weaver was signed by the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers and started his pro career after his senior year at Michigan State in the also now defunct IHL where he played for the Orlando Solar Bears winning the league’s final championship before the league folded.
After winning the Turner Cup in Orlando, Weaver bounced between the NHL and AHL with the Thrashers and the Chicago Wolves. Weaver cut his teeth in pro hockey this way and learned to be a serviceable player that had to do what it took to stick in the show. Aside from Atlanta, Weaver has journeyed through the Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues organizations before signing with the Panthers for two years. Since his signing, Weaver has been the steadiest defenseman on Florida’s roster, excelling in his role as a savvy veteran who backs his team up in their own zone. He was rewarded with a two-year extension and has been complimentary to his usual partner, Dmitry Kulikov. Kulikov is still young and is irresponsible in his own zone, but Weaver seems to be there at the right time to pick up the pieces for the young Russian.
Weaver lacks offensive skill. His paychecks are not coming in for his ability to convert points. Weaver doesn’t break the six-foot mark but he plays like he’s a giant. He tries to stand up to everyone who comes his way and gets in the way of anyone or anything in his lane. Weaver has also been the Panthers most reliable penalty killer on the ice each season, mostly stemming from his ability to block shots and his lack of fear of doing it. Currently tied for the No. 10 spot in blocked shots in the NHL, with 31, he also has 33 hit. All of which have been done in just 12 games played this season.
Injuries killed the Panthers last year, but Weaver’s absence on the blue line was the most devastating. Weaver brings stability, physicality and tenacity to the Panthers defense. The feisty little defenseman may not be the most talented player, the fastest or the most breathtaking, but his work ethic on the ice is unparalleled. Weaver may sit in last place on the Panthers in plus-minus right now, with -8, but it certainly is hard to be a plus player in South Florida. In the 2011-12 season, Weaver played a full 82 games, registering 16 assists and finishing -2, while also tacking on a full seven games in the Panthers series against the New Jersey Devils, scoring a goal and finishing -1.
Weaver can be summed up in one word — workhorse. The Panthers, who tend to take one too many penalties, rely on Weaver to be the backbone of their penalty kill and he is a player who is put out in key situations to shut down the opposition’s offense. The 35-year old d-man never gets the credit he deserves from the masses for not only overcoming his size disadvantage in being a defenseman, but doesn’t garner the attention he should for how valuable he is to the Florida back end.