A good soldier
MONTREAL – Yannick Weber may have seen limited action for the Canadiens in 2012-13, but at 24 years of age, the Swiss star isn’t prepared to write it off as a lost season.
Having suited up for just six games during the lockout-shortened campaign, the smooth-skating rearguard believes that taking a glass-half full approach to his situation will be beneficial for his career in the long-run.
“It’s not [an] ideal [scenario]. Definitely not,” stated Weber, who has played 115 games since making his NHL debut with the Habs in 2008-09. “I’m still young. I’ve still got a lot to learn, so this past season was more mentally [tough] than it was on the ice. Maybe in a few years I’ll see that it was good to go through a season like this; that it might have been mentally beneficial for me.”
Making 54 fewer appearances this year than he did in 2011-12, however, was at times frustrating for the 2010 Olympian, who spent the better part of the 48-game schedule watching from the pressbox. After finishing with the third-highest point total among Canadiens defensemen a year ago, Weber registered two assists and a minus-1 differential while logging 13:45 of ice time per game in just a half-dozen appearances for Michel Therrien’s squad.
“It certainly wasn’t easy. It was a bit of a bizarre season, too, with the lockout,” confided Weber, who missed eight games after suffering a knee injury on March 7 in Carolina. “We had eight defensemen on the team who were healthy [for the better part of the year]. We had a ton of wins to start the season, so it was really hard at the start to have a chance to play. We didn’t have a chance to have a real training camp and there were no exhibition games, so it was hard to have a real opportunity to be in the top six. For me, it was all about having a lot of patience, waiting for my chance, working hard and staying positive.”
That was easier said than done for Weber, who saw the likes of rookies Jarred Tinordi, Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu called up from Hamilton and given breaks ahead of him on the Canadiens’ back end. Nevertheless, the young veteran is quick to point out that being passed over for less-seasoned defensemen shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of faith in his abilities.
“I’ve had good discussions with Marc [Bergevin] and Michel [Therrien]. They both said that they were proud of me, that I’ve worked hard and was a professional during the season,” shared Weber, who Therrien inserted in the lineup on four occasions down the stretch in late April. “They said that they know I’m capable of playing here and that I’m an NHL defenseman. They said they still have a lot of confidence in me. It was good to have a discussion like that. Now, I’ll go into the summer and work hard for next season.
“Being a healthy scratch again and again isn’t easy,” continued the former AHL standout, who considered the possibility of heading to Hamilton for conditioning purposes, but ultimately decided against it. “But all season long, the coaches and my teammates all supported me and they were good with me. It’s good to know they’re happy to have me here.”
Already focusing on the start of a full-length NHL season next fall, the pending restricted free agent is hoping not to be a casualty of the numbers game once again. Looking to force his coach and general manager’s hands when camp rolls around this year, Weber has all the motivation he needs to make the most of his offseason workouts and return to Montreal in fine form.
“For everyone, it’s the same thing. It’s summertime and no one will be playing for four months. In September, when training camp starts, it’s the same thing for everyone,” affirmed Weber on the subject of having an opportunity to compete for a spot on the Habs blue line on an even playing field. “I’ll come here ready, and it will be a little different than [this year] because we’ll have exhibition games and a proper training camp. I will have a different opportunity than this past season.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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