In terms of the Eastern Conference standings, Dale Weise’s season stopped being relevant weeks ago, as the Montreal Canadiens plummeted from the high of a 9-0-0 start to the depths of draft-lottery territory. But for Weise himself, every game, and every shift, has counted.
So switching into playoff mode now that he’s suddenly a member of the Blackhawks will not be a challenge.
“I haven’t had a hard time doing that,” Weise said. “I didn’t have a contract past this year, an [unrestricted free agent]. I knew I could be moved at any time. So for me, it’s been playoff hockey all year. You’re fighting for a job. You’re fighting for where you are. And I’m a competitive guy by nature — I hate losing. I don’t really have a way to switch that off. Regardless of where we were in the playoff race in Montreal, for me it was all out every night.”
That intensity is one of the things that made Weise so attractive to Hawks general manager Stan Bowman.
“He started out as just a fourth-line player,” Bowman said. “He did everything he could to get into the NHL. He was willing to fight, stand up for his teammates. I think now we’ve seen over the past couple of years the rest of his game come into shape. He’s been given an opportunity to do more than just be a hard-nosed player. He’s scored some really big goals in the playoffs. He’s a really competitive kid. He’s got a lot of life and personality. … I think he’s really grown his game over the past couple of years to where now you can count on him to score some goals and be a hard guy to play against. I think that’s the kind of player you really are going to rely on down the stretch. We’re really excited to have him come in and be a part of this group.”
Weise sounded near giddy to be joining the Hawks —though he’ll have to wait up to a week or so as he awaits a work visa, much like Richard Panik did earlier this season —and to jump right into the playoff push. The affable 27-year-old is having a career year with 14 goals and 12 assists in 56 games, and brings a net-crashing scoring touch and a physical edge to a Hawks team that sorely needed both. He’ll likely slot in on the third line alongside Teuvo Teravainen and Tomas Fleischmann, who also was acquired in the Friday night deal that sent Phil Danault to Montreal.
Weise and Fleischmann started out the season on the same line, and Weise said the chemistry was “unbelievable from the start.” And when asked what he can bring to the Hawks, Weise didn’t demur. He’s certainly not trying to lower expectations.
“I think I can bring a little bit of everything,” he said. “I think my speed is one of my biggest strengths. I’m a big body, I forecheck hard, I play hard and get to the net. I score a lot of my goals around the net. I think I have a good shot, I think I can make plays, I can penalty kill and I can [play on the] power play. I think I can do a little bit of everything.”
As one of the top rental forwards on the trade market, Weise knew he was likely going to be dealt by Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. But once the Hawks acquired Andrew Ladd, he figured Chicago was no longer a possibility. The call from Bergevin on Friday night surprised him as much as it excited him. “I was absolutely blown away,” he said.
Weise isn’t terribly familiar with the Hawks, as he tended to focus on the Eastern Conference when watching games. But he has liked what he has seen of Teravainen and the rest of the Hawks.
“Look at the talent they’ve got on the team, just throughout the lineup,” Weise said. “It’s incredible, the names. They’ve got an All-Star team there.”
Weise is one more big name to add to the list, as the Hawks try to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
Now its just a matter of getting those immigration papers in order.
“I’m extremely anxious to get there and meet my new teammates and get playing,” he said.