2019-20 Predators Player Report Cards: Yannick Weber
The Swiss defender—no, the other Swiss defender—may be returning to free agency this fall.
In 2016, in a trade that rocked the hockey world, the Nashville Predators sent Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban. Two days after that, when the free agency period opened, they signed fellow right-handed defender Yannick Weber. Tactfully, Yannick Weber immediately abandoned his preferred #6 and said he’d wear #7 in gold.
There were, obviously, significant differences between the two Webers: while both had made their home countries’ Olympics teams, Shea was on a stacked Team Canada roster and Yannick played for Switzerland; while both had previous experience playing with Roman Josi, Shea had done it for years in the NHL and, international experience aside, Yannick would not be seeing top-four icetime on a team with more depth than the Swiss men’s.
Did the Predators just really like Yannick Weber’s game and his agent’s asking price? Were they hoping some fans—or maybe even teammates—wouldn’t notice that “Weber” had gotten half a foot shorter, changed his number, and forgotten how to play hockey? To this day I’m not quite sure.
Yannick Weber has just concluded his fourth season with the Predators—the first two seasons on one-year deals, the last two on a two-year deal, and all four at league minimum salary. With David Poile’s commitment to giving the team’s young players a chance, and no reports of a re-signing yet, Weber may be moving on.
The Report Card
Weber was...okay in transition, ish. He rarely got the puck out of the zone, but he was pretty good at doing so with control when he did—so it would have been nice to see him try it more often, instead of spending all his time in his own zone. Once into the neutral zone, though, he ceded possession easily, going for the dump-and-chase rather than trying to create good offense—a strategy which depends heavily on the forwards’ abilities to succeed.
A clearer positive is his ability to deny zone entries by opposing forwards—though it’s the only tool of any significance in his defensive toolkit, it’s still a useful one to have. If you struggle when the puck is in the DZ, best to keep it out of there entirely.
While Weber had respectable results for the Predators on the penalty kill this season, he only spent about ten minutes total there—not enough to really judge his abilities as a penalty killer.
Pretty much everything else about Weber’s game this season was a negative. He was bad offensively. He was bad defensively. He doesn’t have a great shot, so when he did try to score goals it rarely worked out. Not a single player he shared icetime with was better off for it.
He consistently made bad decisions and lacked the skill to bail himself out pretty much ever—a stronger skater might occasionally have been able to catch up to a play he’d missed unfolding, but Weber never really did. On the flip side, if he could read plays better, he could make up in positioning what he lacked in acceleration—but he couldn’t, so the question is moot.
Ryan Ellis’s injury at the Winter Classic meant that Yannick Weber was asked to step up and take on more responsibility. Despite his highest icetime per game since coming to Nashville (just over 14 minutes, when he’d spent the previous three years hovering around the 12-minute mark), and despite playing most of the time Ellis was out with the team’s leading scorer, Josi, Weber managed a mere three points—a goal and two secondary assists—in 41 games, on pace for six points over a full 82-game season. Not great.
A team shouldn’t ask a third-pairing player to excel, but it’s fair to ask that even a third-pairing player not consistently hurt the team’s chances to win, and Yannick Weber was not able to deliver.
Conveniently, Weber’s sole goal of the season was a late go-ahead goal in a comeback win against the Washington Capitals, which held up as the gamewinner.
It’s 2020, and I don’t have the heart to sort through all of Yannick Weber’s penalties and all the goals he was on-ice against for to see which one was the worst.
That said, his performance in Game 2 against the Arizona Coyotes was pretty bad (and not just because of the goal he completely failed to prevent). Let’s go with that, and if there’s a worse moment out there let me know in the comments:
The Letter Grade: D+
On the one hand, he was not good. On the other hand, we didn’t really expect any better. Back on the first hand, with young defenders like Frédéric Allard, Jérémy Davies, and Alexandre Carrier waiting in the wings, seeing Weber take the ice and struggle there was extremely frustrating.
It’s not fair to dock him half a grade because of management’s decisions, but his season was really almost without redeeming features—even his flashes of utility around the Nashville blueline are meaningless without having some positive impact on play, which they didn’t. Even a third-pairing defender should have some ability to positively impact a NHL game.
How would you grade Yannick Weber for the 2019-20 season?
|B+ / B||1|
|B– / C+||1|
|C– / D+||15|
|D / D–||13|
Statistics and analysis from evolving-hockey.com (Patreon), hockeyviz.com (Patreon), and Corey Sznajder (Patreon) have been used in compiling this player grade. Contract information is from capfriendly.com. The viz at the top is provided by @HockeyStatsCZ.