Tag: Shea Weber

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

No longer underrated, Ekman-Larsson looks to lead in Arizona


By now you should all know about Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

When the Coyotes reached the Western Conference Final in 2012, Ekman-Larsson wowed fans who hadn’t had much of a chance to see him play with his ability to carry the puck and generate offense from the blue line. His ability to play strong in all three zones had many believing they were watching a future Norris Trophy winner.

Two years since then, the Coyotes have fallen out of the playoff picture but Ekman-Larsson’s play hasn’t fallen off. If anything, the 23-year-old is leading by example.

Over the past two seasons, Ekman-Larsson has averaged over 25 minutes of ice time per game. Last season he played nearly 26 minutes per game and the ice time paid off as he had career-highs in goals (15) and points (44). His point total was second to Keith Yandle on the team defense and 14th best amongst defensemen in the NHL. Of the players ahead of him on the NHL list, only Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber saw more ice time.

While Yandle carried a bit more of the offensive load, Ekman-Larsson is taking care of business strongly at both ends of the ice. He’s also a major threat on the power play as 22 of his 44 points last season came with the man-advantage including eight goals.

When you check out Ekman-Larsson’s possession stats (courtesy Extra Skater), his game is strong.

In his first three seasons he had positive numbers that ranked him out amongst the best on the team. While his possession numbers fell off last season, the punch he and Keith Yandle provided offensively helped keep the Coyotes in the hunt for the playoffs all year.

As he enters his fifth season, Ekman-Larsson has all the hype and the skills to back it up. Now it’s his time to break through and enter the pantheon of other elite, young defensemen.

Crosby, Stamkos lead pack in NHL 15 player rankings

Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins

EA Sports has unveiled its top 50 player rankings for NHL 15 and this time it wasn’t even close: Sidney Crosby had a 96 rating, which was three points higher than his closest competition.

That’s a stark change from NHL 14 when Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk were tied at 95. Datsyuk, who was limited to 45 games in 2013-14, dropped to sixth on the list and now has a 93 rating.

After Crosby, the top five are Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Alex Ovechkin, and Shea Weber.

Zdeno Chara was rated as the top defenseman a year ago, but the 37-year-old has slipped from a 94 rating to 91 and now ranks 20th overall. Weber also pulled away from his former teammate Ryan Suter. The Minnesota Wild defenseman retained his 92 rating, but dropped from ninth on the list in 2013-14 (just one rank below Weber’s position last season) to 15th this time around.

At seventh overall, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist is the top goaltender on the list, although the Kings’ Jonathan Quick was slotted just below him.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the only team with two players on the top-10 list was Anaheim as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry took the ninth and 10th spots respectively.

You can view the full list here. NHL 15 is scheduled to come out on Sept. 9.

Would it make sense for Nashville to trade Weber?

Shea Weber

Shea Weber is the face of the Predators’ franchise, the team captain, and one of the best defensemen in the league. So why would they trade him?

If you asked Predators GM David Poile, his response would be rather simple: We wouldn’t.

“We’re keeping him, we’re building our franchise around him,” Poile said in June. He added, “Why wouldn’t we build our team around him?”

Poile’s denials haven’t been enough to kill the speculation surrounding Weber’s future though and part of the problem is that there are legitimate answers to his question. For starters, the Predators are a small market team and the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet that Weber signed with Philadelphia — which Nashville matched to retain his rights — wasn’t built for Nashville. If anything, it was structured to make it as hard as possible for the Predators to keep him.

Weber’s contract is a relic of the old CBA in the sense that it’s severely front-loaded. He will earn $14 million annually for two more seasons and then $12 million annually for another two campaigns after that. However, his cap hit is roughly $7.9 million, which is very reasonable in this market. The wealthier teams in the league would gladly stomach his actual salary to get Weber at that cap hit and if Nashville ever decided to trade him, they would likely get a great return.

Which might make sense given that they have a promising young defensive core beyond Weber, with blueliners Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Seth Jones potentially leading the charge. A Weber trade would still make the Predators worse in the short-term, but if they’re not a great bet to make the playoffs in the near future anyways, is that really much of a sacrifice?

Which brings us to the main reason the Weber rumors aren’t dead: Nashville hasn’t been competitive lately. When a team struggles, their high-profile veteran players are exposed to the rumor mill. In Weber’s case, that has been amplified because it was initially suggested that part of the reason Weber signed with Philadelphia in the first place was that he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding effort.

Since then Weber has been upbeat about spending his career in Nashville and optimistic about the team’s future, but you have to wonder if his tone will change if the Predators’ moves this summer fail to produce results.

With that in mind, the next season or two could be of particular importance in defining Nashville’s future. Despite the financial burden and the possible return, Poile has indeed been building the Predators around Weber. Rumors aside, it would be surprising if Poile traded Weber unless the situation in Nashville got worse or Weber got tired of waiting for the Predators to get better.

Fanspeak: Weber voted greatest Predator in franchise history

Shea Weber

This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

Nashville Predators

1. Shea Weber — 555 votes

2. Pekka Rinne — 282 votes

3. David Legwand — 103 votes

It’s hard to argue Shea Weber winning the vote as the greatest Predators player in team history.

He doesn’t (currently) hold the team record for most games played, goals, or points but his role in establishing the defensive might of the Preds has been huge. Even still, his 131 goals and 347 points are good for third all-time in Predators history behind Legwand and Martin Erat.

Why yes, the Predators have only been around for 15 seasons – why do you bring that up?

Weber’s ferocious physical play and even more fearful slapshot have earned him league-wide fame. Players who have gone down to block his shots on the power play become virtual heroes for trying to stop a shot that’s been registered at over 100 miles per-hour on the reg.

It’s crazy to think Weber almost wasn’t a Predator. The infamous 14-year, $110 million monster offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers signed him to in 2012 as a restricted free agent pushed Nashville GM David Poile to make the financially difficult decision to match it. Player-wise, it was a no-brainer to retain the guy they made captain of the team and his consistent Norris Trophy-level play has proved that.

While Weber proves to be his ever-consistent self, it’s up to Poile and now Peter Laviolette to make it all pay off and bring Nashville a Stanley Cup. At the very least, they don’t have to sweat the blue line.

Poll: Will the Predators make the playoffs?

Goalie Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators looks on as he defends the goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on March 30, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Predators 1-0 in overtime.
(March 29, 2013 - Source: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)

The Nashville Predators were only three points shy of a playoff berth last season, which is pretty impressive when you consider that starting goaltender Pekka Rinne missed most of the campaign due to a hip injury.

The fact that he’s back and had all summer to prepare for his comeback campaign alone makes the Predators a significantly better team. On top of that, they arguably took a significant step forward offensively. Nashville added James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and Olli Jokinen over the summer, which will give head coach Peter Laviolette some interesting players to work with as he tries to craft the Predators into a more offensively-minded squad.

Nashville also has one of the best blueliners in the game in Shea Weber and a maturing supporting cast of Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Victor Bartley, along with newcomer Anton Volchenkov. That’s not a bad group.

At the same time, Nashville would need to finish with a better record than at least one of the Central Division’s Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, and Dallas Stars. Considering that all of those teams are looking pretty formidable after strong offseasons, is it really realistic to think that the Predators are ready to surpass at least one of them while simultaneously staying ahead of the Winnipeg Jets?