With hockey's summer finally over and preseason underway, it's fitting to wrap up our 2008-09 Islanders report cards with two aging players whose wavering health and effectiveness are a major factor in how the Islanders do this year in the standings (i.e. irrespective of the long-term rebuild here).
We know Year 2 of the rebuild -- with all of its prospect exposure -- will proceed with or without Doug Weight and Brendan Witt. But if these two veterans repeat last year's poor health and (for Witt, anyway) ineffectiveness, then the Islanders 20-man lineup will be all the weaker, with a higher lottery pick all the likelier.
Today we start with the easier-to-define player, Weight. This is not the ineffective and buried Anaheim version of Weight -- but it's not the St. Louis Weight who enabled the Blues to leverage the Ducks' cap problem into center Andy McDonald, either. Three sustained lower body injury layoffs last season tell us why 38-year-old speedsters do not draw great bids in free agency: The wheels are old and unreliable.
However, if as expected he serves as a good mentor for training camp roommate John Tavares, the benefits may pay off for a decade. [Stats and usual um, poetry continue after the jump.]For his mere presence as a positive-influence veteran, and his partnership with Mark Streit on the powerplay blueline, I argued for his return much of last season. Whatever he can give, I'll take it. Will it be more than last season's 38 points in 53 games? I sure hope so, but I'm not sure I should expect it.
Of course, do I want Weight talking that way? Hell no. I want Weight fully believing -- and he does:
"I’m not here to float into my late 30s. Captain or not, I’m going to contribute on the ice and lead. Who knows? Maybe I’m here for just this season, but I feel I have plenty of good play left."
#93 / Center / New York Islanders
Jan 21, 1971
1 year, $2.2 million
A good Guerin-buddy pickup, a necessary bridge in the rebuild.
|2008 - Doug Weight||53||10||28||38||-15||55||5||18:17||4:33||21||45.1||10.4|
Random Fact: Weight's power play production: 5 goals, 16 assists, 21 of his 38 points.
"This is our concern, Dude" Fact: Well, 38 years old and a history of lower body injuries on a speed-dependent player. It's huge that Weight is not a soft player, but his thirst for contact may be a health detriment at this age.
The Story: Anyone who watched the Islanders power play last year with and without Weight realizes he still has something left to give. But if one challenge of handling Weight is not overusing him and his injury-susceptible aging wheels, the converse challenge is that a skill player like him doesn't feel comfortable unless he's getting important minutes. Would Weight be happy with continued heavy PP minutes balanced by reduced exposure at 5-on-5? With the promising young centers the Islanders have, we just might find out.
About that logjam of sorts at center: Weight, John Tavares and Josh Bailey in scoring roles; Frans Nielsen in a hybrid role; Richard Park and Nate Thompson in checking roles. Those are nice problems to have. (Yes, probably the only "nice" problem the Islanders have). The official site's depth chart already lists Tavares on Weight's left wing, which is fine. But what if we get to a point where those two should switch? Or a point where Weight is no longer the best option at center? Will he be happy (and effective) in a reduced role?
At 5-on-5, Weight was middle of the pack for the Isles. Among Islanders forwards, he was an even relative +/-, not playing against the toughest opponents, often playing with better teammates. That was pretty consistent with what I expected from an aging veteran during a last-place season: There will be high points, and there will be dog days. And, of course, his share of injuries. If he stays reasonably healthy and energized by the slowly emerging Islanders talent, maybe he plays enough games and produces enough to improve on last year. If not? Well, it's been a great career.
Passer, dancer, Weight
Mentor, guide for The Franchise
Teach him well, and soon.
The Grade: Back to the poll, voting your grade on Weight's 2008-09 season based on your preseason expectations. Me, last summer I thought he'd play a few more games yet produce at about that rate. He about met my expectations, which included being a steady presence in the locker room (I'm not a bit surprised that, of all the veterans last year, he was the one least associated with discomfort over the rebuild growing pains -- even though he, like everyone else, signed on when Ted "veterans or bust" Nolan was still coach.)
Anyway, if he met your expectations, you'd grade him in the 5-6 area. If he exceeded them, you're grading above that; fell short, somewhere below.
Finally, for discussion: How do you see his 2009-10 season proceeding? Will he be racking up points setting up Tavares? Will he be returning to IR? Steadily replaced by the rise of the prospects?