BROSSARD – Dale Weise might’ve flown under the radar in other NHL markets, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in Montreal.
On Wednesday, the 26-year-old was rewarded for a remarkable 2014-15 campaign, claiming the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy as the member of the Canadiens who played a dominant role during the regular season without earning any particular honour. It’s been a career year for the Winnipeg native, who in his second season in La Belle Province, has set personal highs with 10 goals, 19 assists and 29 points in 77 games.
“It feels good. I’m extremely proud of the honour. I base my game on working hard. It’s a brand that I hope the fans and everyone else appreciates. I’m proud of myself,” offered Weise, who received the most total votes from the Montreal media in the race for the award, earning 128 points in the overall standings to finish ahead of forwards Brandon Prust (63 points) and Brendan Gallagher (47 points). “Hopefully, I showed that I work as hard as I can every time I’m on the ice. I know people pay a lot of money to come watch us play, and I try to work as hard as I can every night. That award shows it.”
It certainly does. After all, previous recipients include the likes of Prust, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Steve Begin and Francis Bouillon, all of whom exemplified a work ethic that was second to none. There’s no denying that Weise goes about his business in a similar fashion.
“It really is a great honour. You look at some of the guys who’ve won it in the past, hard-working guys that I respect. Prusty and Gio, for example. It’s a tremendous honour. It says a lot about my game. I can play on any line. I can play against anybody. I can play offensive roles. I can play checking roles. I think I can do it all, so I think this season I’ve proved that,” explained Weise, who ranks second on the team – and first among forwards – with 143 hits, and also sits tied for third with a plus-21 differential alongside Gallagher. “Looking from the outside, I know that Montreal appreciates everyone on the team. I knew that coming in. These are extremely knowledgeable fans here. Everybody on the team gets the recognition here. It’s nice to get the award.”
A workhorse in his own right, Gallagher will be the first one to tell you just how instrumental Weise has been to the success of the Canadiens this season, chipping in both on and off the ice.
“There’s something to be said about his character and what he means to this group. Certainly, since he’s been here, he’s been an important part of our team,” praised Gallagher, who fully appreciates the time and effort Weise has put in over the years to take his game to the next level. “I have a ton of respect for the career he’s had and the work he’s had to do to get to this point and improve and get better. He’s a leader by the way he works on the ice. You put him with anyone and he’s going to perform. He’s going to play Dale Weise style hockey. I know we say that it’s an “unsung hero” award, but I think in this room he’s very appreciated. The guys all understand the importance he’s had around here.”
That’s high praise for a player who is just in his first full season with the CH after joining the squad last February in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks. The five-year NHL veteran simply hit the ground running with the Canadiens, and it’s safe to say he’s never looked back.
“He’s definitely had his best year in the NHL. He’s growing in maturity,” mentioned head coach Michel Therrien, who has successfully featured Weise on every line at different points throughout the year. “He’s a guy that we can put at any position. I really like his intensity. It’s a big honour for him.”
That trademark intensity will surely be on full display as Therrien’s troops close out their regular season schedule and embark on another playoff run one week from now. With Max Pacioretty’s playing status still up in the air, players like Weise will undoubtedly be counted upon to step up and take on some added responsibilities.
“It’s a heavy loss. We can’t hide that. Max plays quality minutes, both offensively and defensively. If we’re up a goal or down a goal at the end of the game, he’s out there. He’s out there on the penalty kill. But, we’re not ruling him out from playing next week. He won’t be there for the next two games, though,” offered Therrien, referencing Pacioretty’s upper-body injury that will keep him out of lineup against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night, and again on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. “It gives someone else an opportunity to show what they can do. I think the guys reacted well the other night in Florida. We lost Max early in the game, but we still created scoring chances. This is something we need to focus on. We need to keep playing the same way. This is a chance for other players to pick it up.”
That certainly includes a player like Weise, who seemingly thrives under the most competitive of conditions.
“It’s been a good season. I’m proud of the way things have gone,” concluded Weise, who, like his teammates, is chomping at the bit for the start of postseason play. “We’ll see how we do in the playoffs before we call it a dream come true, though.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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