DETROIT – When Stephen Weiss was growing up and playing juniors in Plymouth, a comparison to his style of game surfaced quickly and thus a nickname was born.
Weiss was simply known as “Weisserman”.
His play was comparable to former Red Wing Steve Yzerman.
“The comparisons at that age were a little scary,” Weiss said. “But I think it came from playing a two-way game and being responsible one both sides of the puck and that’s something that I take a lot of pride in.
“The Red Wings were always a team I looked at growing up,” Weiss continued. “I always dreamt of playing for the Wings one day. And to have them interested in me and to have that opportunity is just awesome. Words can’t really express that right now.”
Weiss played three seasons with the Whalers, averaging nearly 75 points a season. His best season was 2000-01 when he scored 40 goals and had 47 assists in 62 games.
“Playing up against the best players and trying to shut them down and also being accountable offensively too, I think that’s where those comparisons came from,” Weiss said. “Obviously, we’ve had pretty different careers to this date, but it’s neat to come back to a city where I’ve played before and used to watch the Wings and watch Steve play there before, and wondered about maybe playing for that franchise one day.”
Weiss will get to do just that at least for the next five seasons after inking a deal on the opening day of free agency Friday for $4.9 million a season.
“It’s kind of surreal, but I’m not coming there looking to be anything that he was,” said Weiss, who averaged nearly 30 goals in three seasons with Plymouth. “I’m going to play my own game and do what’s asked of me and just try to help the team win in all of our games and listen to the guys who have been there before.”
Daniel Alfredsson was the first to sign on Friday with the Wings, one year at $5.5 million.
Weiss, who was able to attend a number of games at Joe Louis Area while playing for Plymouth, was that second-line center Detroit coveted in free agency when it became apparent that Valtteri Filppula had priced himself out of the Wings’ plans.
Weiss, who missed the final 26 games of last season with a wrist injury, does lack size (5-foot-11, 190 pounds), but has an offensive upside, scoring 20 or more goals four times in the past seven seasons.
With Weiss the Wings have more flexibility in their forward lines and could allow them to play Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together more often.
“I think when you look at Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and when coach said he wanted to put those two together and have me in the two spot it’s pretty exciting,” Weiss said. “Getting a chance to play with those two players and learn from them, those are two of the top (forwards) in the game and see what they do on a daily basis and try and get better as a player.”
In 654 career games he has 145 goals and 249 assists.
Weiss, 30, was the fourth overall pick by the Florida Panthers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and spent his first 11 seasons there.
He made the playoffs just once with Florida, which what made Detroit that much more appealing.
“Coming from Florida and being there for about (11) years, only playing in the playoffs one year it was a pretty easy decision to come and play for the Red Wings organization that’s had the culture of winning over the years,” said Weiss, who made $4.1 million last season with Florida. “Their goal every year is to win the Stanley Cup and to come to a team and be a part of that is really exciting. I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity to come to this team and do everything in my power to help out and fit in and do what I can to help the Red Wings reach that ultimate goal.”
The Wings have made 22 straight postseason appearances.
“I’m looking forward to the pressure of playing in that type of market,” Weiss said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done it, but I’m hungry to be a part of that type of situation again. I think my game will thrive.
“(I’m going to) listen to the Zetterbergs and Datsyuks, Kronwalls and Franzens, and guy like that who have played years in the playoffs and guys like Alfie as well, who have a lot of experience,” Weiss continued. “I’m going to come there and learn and help out as much as I can.”
Weiss will have to face his former team four or five times next season with at least two of the meetings taking place in Florida.
Detroit jumps to the Eastern Conference next season to compete in a yet-to-be-named division with the Panthers, Ottawa, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Buffalo and Tampa Bay.