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A season to remember

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Everything just seemed to come together for Dale Weise during the 2014-15 campaign.

The 26-year-old enjoyed the most productive year of his NHL career to date, registering career highs with 10 goals, 19 assists, 29 points and a plus-21 differential in 79 regular season games, before embarking on another notable postseason run that included a clutch performance in Round 1 against Ottawa.

“It really was an incredible year for me, personally. I’m extremely proud of the year I had. Coming into the season after that long playoff run, I was excited. I didn’t really know what role I’d play on the team, but just having the opportunity to play on every line and play different roles was very exciting. It was awesome to finally show people what I knew I could do,” offered Weise, who dished out 145 hits during the regular season, which ranked him second on the team behind defenseman Alexei Emelin. “I had a good offseason last year. I worked on my hands and scoring in tight more than usual. It seemed to work. I always knew I could make plays and play with good players. Getting a chance to play with Max and Davey early in the year really took my game to the next level.”

While Weise spent the majority of the regular season alongside Nos. 67 and 51, head coach Michel Therrien didn’t shy away from featuring him on a bevy of different trios all year long. It certainly made things interesting for the Winnipeg native, who took every move in stride and simply kept on working.

“I’d never been in a situation like that before. Normally, I’d have been stuck on the same line playing with the same guys. Michel used me everywhere. If anything, it kept things exciting. Every game, I could start on the fourth line and by the end of the first period I’d be on our top line. The opposite could happen, too,” explained Weise, who logged a career-high 12:11 of ice time per game in 2014-15. “I thought that moving around worked for my game. Whenever things weren’t going, we changed the lines up and I would try to get going with someone else. It was exciting.”

That outstanding ability to roll with the punches and produce – while not necessarily receiving major headlines – made Weise the perfect candidate for the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy, awarded annually to the member of the Canadiens who played a dominant role during the regular season, without earning any particular honor.

“Receiving that award meant a lot to me. It was an extremely big honor. I didn’t know a lot about it coming in, but to join guys I look up to like Gionta and Brandon Prust as past winners was extremely flattering,” confided Weise, who claimed the award with 128 points in the overall award standings, finishing ahead of Prust (63 points) and Brendan Gallagher (47 points) in votes cast by members of the Montreal media. “To get voted by that many people and have that many votes was a tremendous honor.”

Weise also didn’t shy away from asserting himself in the locker room in his first full season with the CH, showcasing the type of character that impressed the Canadiens’ brass ahead of signing the former fourth-round selection to a two-year contract extension in June 2014.

“Coming into the group [back in February 2014], you’re trying to feel out where you fit on the team. This year, we lost a lot of older guys, so our young core of guys had to step up and fill that leadership role. I took it upon myself to be one of the more vocal guys. That’s the type of person I am. That’s the type of player I am. Whether it was trying to pick a guy up when he’s had a tough shift or just trying to get the boys fired up when we’re sleeping a little bit, I took a lot pride in that part of my game,” shared Weise, who admits that being particularly vocal amongst his teammates was something relatively new for him in the NHL ranks. “I just felt comfortable coming into the year, comfortable with my surroundings, comfortable with my teammates and comfortable with my place on the team. I tried to pick my spots and do what I could to help our team be better.”

Fast forward to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals against the Ottawa Senators back on April 19. That night, Weise single-handedly lifted the Canadiens to a 3-0 series lead, rallying the team with the game-tying goal late in the third period before scoring the overtime winner to secure a 2-1 victory at the Canadian Tire Centre. Needless to say, it wasn’t the first time Weise had come through in the clutch for his childhood team at the biggest time of the year.

“That one’s pretty close to my biggest moment. I had a couple the year before that were big, too. There was the overtime winner in Game 1 in Tampa and a couple of big goals against Boston in Round 2. But, scoring like that in Ottawa was a dream come true for me again. I pride myself on being a guy who gets better in the playoffs. I thought I had a good run. I felt like I elevated my game once again,” offered Weise, who registered two goals and three points in 12 playoff games in 2014-15, while also chipping in with 39 hits along the way. “We track scoring chances on our team, and for primary chances I was right up there. For a guy who doesn’t play on the power play, that says a lot about where my game was. There are a couple of [scoring] chances that still sit in my mind, but overall I was happy with the way I played and I was proud of our team. We battled hard.”

That’s one of the many things Weise relished in Montreal this past season, going to war with a group that always stuck together through the inevitable highs and lows that come with vying for the Stanley Cup over the course of a demanding year.

“The core group we have here is pretty special. I was on some really good teams earlier in my career in Vancouver. That was a tight team and the guys got along well. Here, we all love each other. It’s a brotherhood. A lot of people usually say that and it’s all smoke and mirrors. But, I truly believe that everyone loves each other and wants each other to be successful,” confided the Canadiens’ No. 22, who also suited up for the New York Rangers in 2010-11 before spending two-plus seasons with the Canucks. “I think that’s why we were so effective. Moving forward with that core group of guys, we’re going to have success.”

Given everything Weise accomplished in 2014-15, it should come as no surprise that his confidence at season’s end was at an all-time high. And, the right-winger is already chomping at the bit for October, having thought about hitting the gym just as soon as he landed in the Manitoban capital for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

“I’ve told my wife, Lauren, that I’ve never been this motivated in an offseason to get back to work. I’m extremely motivated to have the best summer of my life. Knowing how good a player I can be and the fact that I can take my game to another level just motivates me even more,” concluded Weise, who will remain in Winnipeg for the duration of the summer to train and hone his game. “When you have a coach and management that believe in you, you’re around a good group of guys, and you have a little success, it’s crazy what that can do for the overall happiness of your life. I feel like a completely different person both on and off the ice. It just seems like a lifetime ago when I was playing in Vancouver. When you’re in a great situation, you want to be at the rink, you want to play hockey and life’s fun.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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