MONTREAL – In the midst of wrapping up the shortest summer of his NHL career, Dale Weise is chomping at the bit to start his first full season in bleu-blanc-rouge.
Three months removed from a postseason run that saw the 26-year-old play a key role in the Canadiens’ push to within two wins of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, Weise is doing everything in his power to ready himself for the inevitable grind that awaits when the regular season opens on Oct. 8 in Toronto.
“I think it’s been the quickest summer of my whole life. I’ve never played that late in the playoffs. Things happened pretty fast,” shared Weise, who spent his summer back home in Winnipeg with his new wife, Lauren, and 11-month-old son, Hunter. “Any time you have a chance to play that deep in the playoffs and summer just flies by, it’s a good thing. It was a credit to just how well our team did, and it shows great signs for us moving forward.
“Looking back on it, that was the best time I had playing hockey,” added the three-year NHL veteran, who racked up three goals – including two game winners – and seven points in 16 playoff games in 2013-14. “I’ve said it a million times, being part of the Canadiens is a dream come true for me. That run just fed my training and my motivation this summer. I think we’ve got some unfinished business to take care of.”
Despite being forced to delay the start of his offseason workout regimen after sustaining a concussion in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on May 27, Weise wasted little time getting back on track. After taking a couple of weeks off to relax and recuperate, the gritty winger got right back in the swing of things with a fitness program designed to take his game to the next level.
“Taking some time off kind of compounded my program a little bit. I’ve been working extremely hard. I’m probably as lean as I’ve ever been, and I think that’s a key for me. I was playing at about 200 pounds in the playoffs. It’s the lightest I’ve ever been in the NHL, but it was also the best I’ve ever felt. Most offseasons, I could bulk up to 212 or 215 pounds. The summer is more about shedding excess weight, growing stronger and gaining speed,” offered Weise, who admits to currently tipping the scales at 207 pounds. “I want to stay fast and play fast. That’s my focus when it comes to training.”
With that in mind, Weise sought out the help of renowned Winnipeg-based skills coach, Dave Cameron, to complement his workouts in the weight room.
“Dave is unbelievable. We work over at The Rink Training Centre. I’ve never really worked with a skills coach before. I’ve done a lot of work with him, and I think I’ve made huge strides with my hands when it comes to making in-tight scoring plays. I’ve been doing a lot of work on that area in particular, and I hope I’ll be reaping the benefits,” confided Weise, who has been hitting the ice four to five times a week at Highlander Ice Sports Centre for about three weeks, skating alongside the likes of NHLers Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt, pros Cam Barker and James Martin, and Predators prospect, Brendan Leipsic. “I’ll do a 45-60 minute skills session, then get on the ice with the pros in town. We do drills, and speed and band work. We also scrimmage a little bit. I think I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
With a new two-year deal in tow, Weise is also more comfortable in his surroundings than he’s ever been, too.
“I’ve been a guy that last couple of years in Vancouver where my deals didn’t get signed until the end of July or beginning of August. To get that type of faith from the organization is huge for a guy who’s been living off one-year deals,” confessed Weise, who signed on the dotted line on June 17, less than a month before he and Lauren tied the knot at The Gates on Roblin, a riverfront property located about 30 minutes outside of the Manitoban capital. “I’m excited to get back to training camp and to see the guys. I love the city, I love the people, I love the fans. There’s no better feeling than playing in the Bell Centre. I can’t wait to see how far our team can go.”
While he’s not setting any specific performance goals for 2014-15, Weise does believe solidifying a spot among Michel Therrien’s top-nine forwards isn’t out of the question.
“Honestly, I had a lot of success in the playoffs offensively where I haven’t in the past, but I’m really not a numbers guy because so many things can happen throughout the year,” offered Weise, whose family will call the South Shore home during the season. “I just expect to be in good shape when I arrive and have a good training camp. Some things might already be penciled in on paper, but I’d love to earn a job on our third line. I’m going to work hard. That’s all I can say.”
Based on what Weise has shown so far, there’s no doubting that.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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