The way Dale Weise sees it, there are plenty of other guys like him that could be everyday NHL players. Guys with the right mix of grit and skill. Guys who can be impact players, who could be the type of player a Stanley Cup contender would seek out at the trade deadline.
They just don’t want it as badly as he did.
“I came into the league in Vancouver as a fourth-line guy, and [had to] fight as much as I could and just try to get my foot in the door,” Weise said. “ I was willing to do whatever it took just to get in the league and do what I had to do. That’s kind of the difference. There’s a ton of players in the American Hockey League that can play in the NHL that don’t want to make the sacrifice to be a third- or fourth-line guy to get themselves in the door.”
Weise was never destined for NHL glory. He was a fourth-round pick who spent nearly three full seasons in the AHL. He had to fight his way into the NHL with the Rangers and then the Canucks — often literally, trying to catch their attention by dropping his gloves. Then he was pigeon-holed as a fourth-line grinder, an energy guy. But his self-confidence — the kind of arrogance nearly every pro athlete has to have — never wavered. Now he’s a productive scorer in the NHL, a clutch playoff performer, and a winger on a scoring line for the high-octane Blackhawks.
Oh, and he’s a fast-talking, pain in the neck to play against.
If all that sounds familiar, it should. Weise is basically a bigger Andrew Shaw.
“Yeah, he’s one of those kinds of guys,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They can score and they bring the intangibles you appreciate.”
While Weise wasn’t passed over in the draft like Shaw, he’s been doubted for most of his pro career, ever since the Rangers made him a fourth-round pick in 2008. And like Shaw, those doubts only fueled him, and made him mentally tougher.
“Oh, for sure,” Weise said. “It kind of makes you ready for any situation you’re thrown into. I’ve had to earn everything that I’ve got. I’m having a good year this year and I think I’m still trying to shake critics [who say] I’m not as good as I am. So I always have a chip on my shoulder. I’m very confident in my abilities, I’m very confident in myself as an individual.”
Weise played 10 games with the Rangers during the 2010-11 season, and was a serviceable depth player and enforcer for the Canucks, with 15 fights between 2011-13. But it was after he was dealt to the Canadiens in February of 2014 that he took the next step. He had three goals during the 2014 playoffs, including an overtime winner, and made a name for himself by crawling under the skin of Boston’s Milan Lucic.
He had 10 goals the following season, and added another overtime winner in the 2015 playoffs. Then this year, he put up 14 goals in 56 games, earning himself a spot on Stan Bowman’s short list as he sought out skilled-but-physical wingers to play alongside Teuvo Teravainen.
“He’s a pretty powerful forward — good size with a pretty good shot,” said Tomas Fleischmann, who came over from Montreal with Weise, and who will play on his line. “For our third line he’s going to be great.”
Weise will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and it’s too early to know if the Hawks will be able to re-sign him — or even if they’ll want to. But an uncertain future is nothing new to Weise, who’s never lacking for motivation.
“I’m not trying to do anything special; this team’s at the top of the league for a reason,” Weise said. “I’m just going to come in and do what I do — I think I can add a little bit to this team. So I’m excited to see what I can do.”