by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
“So uh, Colin, who’s the big guy down there with that southern team?”
“Ya mean Byfuglien? Yeah, I heard he went to Atlanta.”
“Not Atlanta, ya chooch. I’m talkin’ about the big guy on the team where they have that hillbilly music.”
“Ya lost me, Cliffie.”
“You know, they have the cat with the big teeth and that goalie with the name that sounds like a Scandinavian dessert who plays like he originated from Planet Net?”
“No idea, Cliffie.”
“Geeze. He burned a frickin’ hole, a HOLE, Colin. You hear me? HE. BURNED. A. HOLE. in the opposition’s net during the Olympics.
“Oh, fer…He’s Canadian. He’s a BC boy from Sicamus.”
“He’s a ‘Nuck?”
“Nooooooooooo. He plays down south.”
“Tampa Bay?Carolina? Columbus?”
“No. No. No. Think. There’s hills and Dolly Parton and the Grand Ole Opry…”
“Nashville has an NHL team? Get out! Yer screwin’ with me, aren’t ya?”
And so it goes around the rest of the NHL…
That big guy? He’s Shea Weber, and after five seasons of growth as a player in Nashville’s program, he’s starting his sixth season as the man who will fill the rather large skates recently vacated by Jason Arnott. This is an important milestone for the Predators as Weber is the first person drafted and developed by Nashville to wear the ‘C’.
Shea the Cannon. Shea the D-Man. Shea the yang to Ryan Suter’s more understated but just as deadly-on-ice yin. Weber has never had a problem attracting attention to his talent as a player. During the 2009 All-Star Game Skills Contest, the wonks in the booth speculated about a number of favored sons from older, bigger markets taking the prize. Once it was Weber’s turn, he took aim and fired the cannon that has been the bane of many an unfortunate soul who has gotten in the way of his slap shot. The gasp from the Montreal crowd was audible as Weber gathered speed and on his second try clocked in at 103.4 miles per hour (166.4 Canadian). The only thing that kept him from winning was Zdeno Chara’s record shattering missle of a shot that edged past Weber’s numbers at 105.4 mph. Still, the word was out to the North American Hockey world. The Cats on the Cumberland might be the Good Guys in White Hats, but watch out for that beast of a slap shot.
Almost exactly a year later, Weber would take the opportunity to remind everyone that what was going on in Nashville wasn’t just some guys playing a pickup game for beer. At 3:32 of the second period during the final game between Canada and Germany, Weber rifled a shot that would whistle past the the goalie’s shoulder to an upper corner and ultimately through the goal itself. Whether the ungodly smell that eminated from Germany’s crease originated from burning net or the goalie who narrowly escaped the Weber’s slap shot is still a matter of conjecture.
Just those two accomplishments would be enough for many players, but Weber has consistently been in the top percentile in some important defensive stats categories, often leading the league in shots on goal made by a defensman. He ranks fourth among his fellow blue-line warriors for power play goals and fifth in the league for game winning goals as a D-man. He’s also a dependable enforcer whose on-ice time last season was just north of 23 minutes per game.
For those of you who are numerically inclined, here’s what he looks like on paper:
player statistics courtesy NHL.com
There’s no question that Weber is the whole package on the ice. What remains to be seen is whether he will be an effective captain. When the announcement was made in July that Weber would be leading the team, Predators head coach, Barry Trotz stated that the decision to award the position to Weber was “easy and unanimous”. “I asked Pekka Rinne who he would most like to have in a leadership role and he was quick to answer, ” added Trotz.
On the ice, he’s all business. At 6’4″, 235 pounds (106.14 Canadian), sweet lord, he’s blot-out-the-sun big. He’s possessed of smarts, having admitted during an interview last year that if he hadn’t made it as a hockey player, he would probably be grinding away at Prosser on Torts and other legal delights instead of giving a complex to everything Mike Babcock and Coach Q can throw at him. Off the ice, he’s gentlemanly and refreshingly drama-free and in a town where stupid celebrity/athlete tricks make headlines and sadly, sometimes have a body count.
Weber’s appointment is the one of many of the positive changes that have taken place at The ‘Stone and The ‘Plex over the summer. For the Predators Faithful, this is the second coming of the promise to unleash the beast. For everyone else, you’ve seen the previews at the All-Stars and the Olympics, but you’ll stay for the post-diluvian rebirth of Nashville’s Men in Black and Blue.
Author’s Note: This article was written and published before most of us in the Nashville hockey community were aware of Tracy Weber’s condition. When the announcement of her death hit the web on August 20th, I agonized over whether to change the title and finally asked one of my editors, Rick Gethin, for guidance on this matter. His suggestion was to keep the title but add a note at the end.
Having thought about it, I agree. There are plenty of stories about James Weber taking young Shea out with a bucket of pucks and teaching him to play. The untold story, the one that is known to friends and family of the Webers’, is the extent to which his mother contributed to the content of his character. Who this young man is and who he is destined to become is her legacy, too. So the title stands. My thoughts and prayers go out the the Webers during this sad time. -JF