The word “bust” has two distinct meanings in the world of professional sports.
It could represent the highest of honors—a bronze sculpture of the head of a football player enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, for example. If a championship ring is the ultimate goal, a bronze bust with your likeness in the HOF certainly is not far behind.
Bust also has an ugly, embarrassing meaning.
A bust could also be a draft choice or a free agent signee who fell far below expectations and thus etched a much smaller career than what was planned.
Stephen Weiss never played pro football, so which meaning of “bust” does that leave him?
It may be too early to saddle the Red Wings’ Weiss with that albatross of a word, but it’s getting there.
Weiss, the center signed by Detroit in the summer of 2013 to the tune of five years and $24.5 million, has done little to justify the Red Wings’ investment.
An injury-plagued 2013-14 season robbed Weiss and the Red Wings of what was expected to be a productive year from a no. 2 center.
An injury should never brand someone a bust. I’ve always argued that. So you give Weiss a mulligan for last season, in which he played in just 26 games and had a measly two goals and two assists.
But in 2014-15, Weiss suited up for twice as many games (52) yet chipped in just nine goals and 16 assists. He was a minus-2, if you believe in that stat.
In March, Weiss was benched briefly by coach Mike Babcock for some silly turnovers. Babcock doesn’t suffer foolish play easily. Just ask Brendan Smith.
But when the playoffs started last week in Tampa, Weiss was in the lineup.
You’d like to say that Weiss was in because of his age (32) and playoff experience—except that Weiss played most of his career in Florida for the Panthers, and thus he only had seven NHL playoff games on his 14-year resume heading into the post-season.
But he still is 32 and has played in the league for a long time, and in the playoffs you can never have too much experience, albeit almost entirely gathered in the regular season.
Two games into this first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Stephen Weiss may as well not have been in the lineup, after all.
Weiss hasn’t made one iota of impact. His stat line has basically consisted of his name and TOI (time on ice) followed by a gaggle of zeroes.
This time, there is no injury (that we know of) to blame.
Whether Weiss will be in the lineup for the pivotal Game 3 in Detroit on Tuesday is anyone’s guess—maybe even including Babcock, who surely must be at least mulling over a change when it comes to Weiss.
Weiss started strong last November when he came back from his hernia surgery, popping in a couple of goals in his first game. But soon he went back to being invisible and pretty much useless.
The benching in March wasn’t entirely unexpected, though a tad surprising.
The playoffs in the NHL has always been a time for everything and everyone to reset.
The regular season is like an Etch-a-Sketch. The playoffs are what happens after that Etch-a-Sketch gets shaken and cleared.
It’s a clean slate for everyone, and for every team. Seeding matters little, unlike in the NBA, where only a handful of teams truly have a shot at the championship.
Weiss, like every player on the roster, got to hit the reset button last week.
But you can’t do it anymore, not two games into the first round. There is no time for mulligans.
But the beauty of playoff hockey is that Stephen Weiss could still be an impact player for the Red Wings. He could still score some timely goals and make some of those signature passes that were his hallmark in Florida.
He’d better do it soon. If he even gets another chance.