DETROIT – Stephen Weiss may have already said the one thing that Red Wings fans are going to love to hearing, “I don’t want to be Valtteri Filppula’s replacement, I want to be Stephen Weiss and do what I do.”
Weiss skated for the first time with a number of his teammates Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena in preparation for training camp that opens up next week in Traverse City.
“I don’t want to feel like I’m coming in here replacing anyone,” Weiss said. “I’m going to come in and do what I’ve done over my career and take care of my play on the ice. Hopefully that’s good enough.”
Weiss got a five-year deal with the Wings at $4.9 million a season on the opening day of free agency.
He’s the second-line center Detroit coveted in free agency when it became apparent that Filppula had priced himself out of the Wings’ plans.
“It’s going to be great,” Weiss said. “I want to learn as much as I can from those guys. They’ve all played in some big hockey games, won Stanley Cups before. I’ve been around for a while, but haven’t had too much of a taste for playoff hockey. I’m going to follow their lead, go out and do my thing and help out as much as I can. To play with players of that kind of caliber will be a nice change for me for sure.”
Oddly enough, Weiss is in Filppula’s only stale next to captain Henrik Zetterberg.
“Just walking in this morning, seeing the pictures and all the history here is something you don’t have in Florida so right away it hits you,” Weiss said. “Seeing that arena again was something special. I’ve only played here a few times in my career and I’ve enjoyed it, playing in this arena. It’s one of the older arenas in the league, it’s so awesome. To think in a month or so to be suiting up in regular season games will be something special.”
Weiss, 30, was the fourth overall pick by the Florida Panthers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and spent his first 11 seasons there.
“We basically flipped Weiss and Fil,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, who was on hand Tuesday to watch the informal skate. “Fil was a really good player, did everything right every day. With the exception of the one year, got 40 points, one year he got 60 playing on the wing with Zetterberg.
He made the playoffs just once with Florida, which what made Detroit that much more appealing.
“I’m just trying to get used to the new drills, I haven’t seen those before,” Weiss said. “Just getting the feet wet and getting to know the guys is important. This week is important for me. Get to know the guys, get on the ice and see what some tendencies are and just get comfortable. It was a good first day and looking forward to the rest of the week.”
In 654 career games he has 145 goals and 249 assists.
“We’re looking for a guy to generate more in the middle,” Babcock said. “So can Weiss generate 50 points playing in the middle on the second line, I’m going to watch and see. We think he’s going to be a way better player here. Over time the demand is high. We explained the situation to him very clearly. Told him if he wasn’t ultra-competitive he couldn’t come here. If he didn’t bring it every day he couldn’t come here because he was going to hate it if he didn’t. Dislike the coach and dislike playing here. It’s real straight forward. If you don’t do it right, you’re not happy here.”
Weiss, who normally trains in Toronto with Gary Roberts and a number of other players, said was nervous for his first day on the ice with teammates.
“It kind of felt like game day,” Weiss said. “I was up early. I couldn’t sleep last night. I was nervous about meeting all the guys. You don’t get that much anymore. I’ve been in the same spot for so long. It’s kind of ground hog day over and over again, going to camp. Getting those juices going was neat and something I haven’t felt in a while.”
Former Panther teammate Todd Bertuzzi picked Weiss, who has also played with Mikael Samuelsson, up for practice Tuesday.
“I didn’t know where I was going, I still don’t know,” Weiss smiled. “The little things like that help, when you know a couple of guys that can do things like that to make the transition easier.
All the guys have been great. I feel very welcome already. It’s been awesome.
“You kind of picture yourself maybe getting a chance to play here one day, but to honest with you I would have liked to have stayed in Florida, turned that place around and be a playoff team every year, but it wasn’t to be,” Weiss continued. “To have a chance to sign with an organization like this is above and beyond of what I could have every dreamed of.”