Who is Mike Weaver?
Mike Weaver is a 35 year old defense-minded defenseman from Bramalea, Ontario, who up until today played 18:47 per night for the Florida Panthers. The Montreal Canadiens acquired the 5'10", 180 pound defenseman in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, which is a small price to pay for an NHL regular.
Don't let his size fool you, as Weaver is extremely rugged. He ranked second on the Panthers defense this season in hits per 60 minutes with 5.9, totalling 101, first on the team in shots blocked per 60 minutes with 5.5, and is willing to take a hit to make a play, taking 5.8 hits per 60 minutes played.
In a study I'm working on measuring the toughness, or physical engagement of players, Weaver ranked 21st among NHL defensemen.
Weaver also happens to be right handed, which is something the Canadiens have been desperately searching for since they decided to make the 4th best defenseman on their roster a healthy scratch for no reason and then trade him for a 4th line grinder. But anyway, Weaver can play the right side, which is good.
Weaver has also been a fancy stats darling for a few years, but at 35 years old there's a strong possibility that he's on the downslide. To figure that out, let's take a look at him analytically.
How a player is used is a big factor in how we should judge their performance, so just like we did with Dale Weise, let's take a look at how Weaver has been deployed in Florida.
Over the last three seasons, Weaver has played some seriously tough minutes. He regularly takes the toughest defensive zone starts on the Panthers' defense, with the only guys who have been more trusted in their own zone the last three years being Marcel Goc and Shawn Matthias.
For the most part Weaver has faced mid-level opponents, as it seems like neither Kevin Dineen or Peter Horachek bother to line match, they just zone match. What is interesting though, is that Weaver is consistently supported by very good linemates.
For some reason, Weaver is consistently positive in possession when the score is tied, even in extremely tough minutes, but has been generally awful over the last three years at even strength overall. Part of this may be that his two most common defensive partners over the last five years are Jason Garrison and Dmitri Kulikov, both of whom are likely the driving force on that pairing.
Weaver is not an offensive guy by any stretch of the imagination, finishing last or second last on his team in unblocked shot attempts every year, but that's not what his role is so I wouldn't really worry about it much.
In spite of extremely solid possession numbers this season with a 51.8% Fenwick, only 41.3% of the goals scored while Weaver has been on the ice this season are in his team's favour. That can be a little bit worrying, but the biggest reason for that is his team low PDO of just 967. The main culprit in his PDO is a nasty 90.5 on-ice save percentage, which would rank second worst on the Canadiens after Ryan White.
Part of this is due to Florida having horrible goalies, but he's also been very unlucky overall, and that isn't likely to continue forever, even though it could reasonably continue for the rest of the season.
What do we have?
All the evidence we have available tells us that Weaver is a capable defenseman in tough minutes, provided that he has a partner who can move the puck effectively. That isn't going to be Douglas Murray, even though we all know that Therrien is going to shove that square peg in the round hole as long as possible.
Ideally Mike Weaver is not an upgrade on young Jarred Tinordi or Nathan Beaulieu, but on Alexei Emelin. Andrei Markov is already playing very tough minutes, and giving him someone who has a little more veteran savvy and is less mistake prone than Emelin could end up solidifying that second pairing a little bit. In an ideal world Weaver would be playing third pairing minutes with Beaulieu while the Habs found a younger, more fleet of foot partner for Markov, and Emelin could spend some time with Douglas Murray in the press box, but we don't live in an ideal world. We live in Bergevin's world.