Originally published: October 18, 2011 7:50 PM
Updated: October 18, 2011 8:43 PM
VANCOUVER — Smiling somewhat like a man who unexpectedly had received a get-out-of-limbo card and landed in a hockey nirvana, Dale Weise was searching for words, trying to explain his level of relaxation.
“When you don’t feel comfortable, you’re not going to play your best game,” said Weise, the former Rangers prospect who was waived on Oct. 1, claimed by the Canucks and faced the Rangers Tuesday night. “I felt on edge every single shift I was there, to be honest with you. Here, it’s night and day.”
With the Western Conference champions, the 23-year-old right wing is more at ease in his role and his relationship with the coaching staff. “Against Edmonton, my first shift of the game, they were coming down on a 2-on-2,” Weise said. “I didn’t think [Shawn] Horcoff had that kind of skill and he just roasted me. I came off and it was like, ‘You don’t have to worry about that’ and I was right back on the next shift.”
Weise, a 6-2, 210-pound grinder, will never threaten the Sedin twins for the scoring title. But he relishes knowing where he stands and the consistency of coach Alain Vigneault.
“They told me you’re on the fourth line, here’s the guys you’re playing with,” said Weise, a Winnipeg native who is averaging nine minutes a game. “The coach just rolls four lines, he stays with it.”
Weise, who scored 18 goals in the AHL last season, played 10 games for the Rangers without registering a point. This fall, Rangers coach John Tortorella said he believed Weise was just a cut below making the opening roster, and hoped he would clear waivers and play in Hartford. The Canucks took a chance.
“I really didn’t expect to get picked up,” Weise said. “I talked to Torts when I got sent down and he said there was a pretty good chance that someone was going to pick me up, wished me luck and I said, ‘Come on.’ When I found out it was Vancouver, I mean, Canadian city, Stanley Cup finalist, returning the same guys, it’s a great situation. I have no hard feelings.”
Vigneault wasn’t leading the charge to claim Weise, but he is becoming a believer. “I didn’t know him but our scouts think very highly of him,” Vigneault said Tuesday. “I like what Dale brings; he’s got good size, he skates well, thinks the game well, and he adds a physical presence. That line, with Maxim Lapierre and Aaron Volpatti, is slowly forging a good identity. They’re hard to play against and spend a lot of time in the other end. He’s a very young player, so we’re going to work with him.”
Despite starting six consecutive games, security is always an issue. Weise knows he must work to keep his spot, especially with several forwards due to return from injuries.
In his effort to impress, Weise has been pushing the limits, and told to slow down. “We’re a little more patient over here; New York’s a little more go, go, go,” Weise said. Tuesday, he was trying to contain his energy for his first game against the team that had drafted him in 2008. “Anybody that tells you there isn’t a little extra motivation is lying to you,” Weise said. “You’ll see a different player out there.”