Shea Weber (Getty Images)
His teammate on the Predators says Weber’s slapshot can be impossible to stop, but what’s the secret behind the development of The Shea Bomb?
Without a doubt, Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber has the most feared slapshot in the NHL. Not only is it the go-to answer when you ask the question, but his blast actually has its own rap sheet.
Most famously, there was the goal he scored against Germany at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the one that actually broke through the netting and went out the other side, prompting a replay to confirm its trajectory. And this summer, Weber was skating with a half-dozen teammates in Nashville when he put a shot through the boards. Fellow Preds blueliner Seth Jones took a picture for posterity, which was fun for fans online, not so much for those in the goaltending profession.
“You know how I’m going to feel about that,” said Nashville netminder Carter Hutton.
Fortunately for Hutton, Weber keeps it low in practice and the Preds goalie is never screened when the captain tees off, making it easier to set and prepare for the rocket. But he does have sympathy for his goaltending peers.
“It’s definitely the hardest shot I’ve ever faced,” Hutton said. “He gets it away so quick and when he picks the right spots, it’s almost impossible to stop.”
Weber is 6-foot-4 and weights 233 pounds. His physical gifts are one reason he can generate so much speed and power behind his blasts, but there’s also that time-honored tradition of practice, practice, practice.
“It’s something I’ve worked on a lot,” Weber said. “I’ve enjoyed doing it since I was little and every day I try to get a bit better.”
As a boy growing up in tiny Sicamous, B.C., Weber would practise outside the family house on the grass. His dad brought home a piece of plywood from the sawmill he worked at and Shea would scrounge around the house for cans, which he would tie to the crossbar to have something to shoot at off the plywood.
The lore surrounding Weber’s shot would not become mythical until he got to the NHL. In junior, he was hidden while playing for a deep Kelowna Rockets team in the Western League and never posted more than 12 goals in a season. This becomes understandable when you realize Duncan Keith and Josh Gorges were ahead of him on the depth chart, as was Czech import Tomas Slovak.
That last name may be the least acclaimed of the trio, but he was most importantly a Nashville draft pick in 2001. While monitoring Slovak’s progress as a 19-year-old, they noticed the 17-year-old Weber, who was 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds at the time. When the Preds tabbed him in the second round of 2003, they were drafting potential only – he had just two goals in 70 WHL games.
Fast-forward a decade. While Weber can’t recall when NHL teams began to crack down on his cannon show, he and the Preds devise counterattacks when opponents cheat toward him in defensive situations.
“We have special teams meetings throughout the year,” he said. “If teams are going to take away the option (of me shooting), then it opens up someone else.”
At the same time, Weber’s nuclear option is one of the best weapons in the league, not just on a Nashville team that has suffered for offense. The Preds ranked 19th in goals last season, with Weber’s 23 tallies accounting for more than 10 percent of the total (214). The addition of Mike Ribeiro, James Neal and Olli Jokinen was the off-season solution, while Jones will build on a constructive rookie year. But the Big Shot Weber possesses is the one that strikes fear in netminders, friend or foe.
“I just don’t want it to hit me,” Hutton said.
That’s what happened to ex-Detroit netminder Chris Osgood a few years ago, when he took one off the head from Weber during a game. Fortunately, Osgood was OK, but it looked nasty. And considering the fist-sized chunk Weber put into the boards this summer, his reign of terror is not winding down. Nets, boards, panes of glass – none have been safe over the years and, frankly, Weber has lost track of how many things he’s wrecked.
Weber himself is still amused by the incident.
“Guess the boards were getting old,” he said.
Maybe so, but they didn’t die peacefully.