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2015-16 Montreal Canadiens Season Preview: Dale Weise

Confident? Cocky? Dutch Gretzky is just being Dutch Gretzky.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

When Dale Weise was acquired by the Montreal Canadiens on February 3, 2014, the initial reaction consisted mainly of, "that's all they could get for Raphael Diaz?" After Weise played a few games with his childhood team, however, the masses' tune changed from "why?" to "whoa."

Fans were impressed by Weise's work ethic, speed, and physical presence that earned him a steady spot in the Canadiens' bottom six. These qualities endeared the Manitoba native to his new coach, Michel Therrien, and before long Weise wound up with a promotion and frequently found himself playing with the team's top-six corps.

Fans bemoaned the move, stating that Weise was not suited for top-six duty and soon began to resent — even hate — the player for something that was entirely not his fault.

I figured out what Weise is; it's pretty clever actually.

Dale Weise is a plug.

Stay with me here. I've always had a problem with the hockey term "plug" having a negative connotation. Why is being a plug a bad thing? You use plugs every day, you rely on plugs to get things done. Without plugs you'd be sitting in the dark, reading a book, interacting with your family, or ... I'm getting away from my point here.

My point here is that hockey jargon is dumb and being called a plug should be considered a good thing. Plugs fit, plugs make things work.

Dale Weise, you're a plug.

2014-15 Review

Weise's usage was all over the charts last season. His coach's admiration earned him time as the "crash and banger" in the Habs' top six, as demonstrated below.

Weise 10-game CF% condensed
2014-15 10-game average Corsi-for percentage with Weise on the ice (blue line) compared to when he was not (orange line). Score-adjusted five-on-five data from WAR On Ice. Charts created by Spencer Mann.

Weise spent a good chunk of his time last season in a top-six role with nearly all of that time being the yin to Max Pacioretty's yang. In fact, Weise played more with Pacioretty than he did with any other Habs' forward.

Therrien chose to plug Weise in an offensive role because he thought the speed and hard work would translate to goals. He wasn't necessarily wrong.

When we take a closer look at the numbers we can see how Weise's presence in the top-six affected his most common linemate.

The sample size is small, know that going in.

When Weise and Pacioretty were on the ice together, Pacioretty's goals for per 60 minutes was 3.55. When Max played without Weise his GF/60 was 1.16. When it came to shot production his shot-attempts-for percentage (CF%) with Weise was 50.3% and when Max was without Weise it was 52.0%.

Let's take a look at the other side of the puck. In terms of goals against per 60 minutes played Pacioretty allowed 1.77 goals/60 while playing with Weise and only 1.16 while playing without him. As far as shot attempts go 63.84 attempts per 60 minutes occurred when Max was with Weise and 56.42 attempts occurred when Max was without him.

You can see how Weise's numbers shake out when he is not with Pacioretty; they don't look very pretty. Having said that, I think that the pairing helps Weise more than it hurts Pacioretty, and that's probably because Pacioretty is incredible.

2015-16 Projection

Weise 2015-16 Marcel projection

2015-16 Marcel statistical projection courtesy of Domenic Galamini | Calculation procedure

Fans do have the evidence to back up Weise not being suited for a top-six role, but I think the venom spewed at him is undeserved. Sure Weise may not be the belle of the analytical ball, but there is a place for him on a winning hockey team.

Those that know me know that I do value "intangibles" as much as I value the hard evidence, and, at risk of getting mauled by the commentariat, I do think that Weise brings qualities that the Canadiens can benefit from. He has that confident-yet-not-cocky attitude that is perfect for a player of his style. He plays the same way no matter what role he is thrust in.

It's the role that's going to define Weise's 2015-16 season. If Therrien has him fight above his weight class again Weise is going to find himself out-skilled. If the coaching staff embraces Weise for what he really is — a prototypical fourth-liner with the ability to jump up to the third line if need be — then the plug will be in the right socket.