Montreal Canadiens Shea Weber is retired for all intents and purposes, but his lack of presence around the team or at major events like Guy Lafleur’s pre-game ceremony on Sunday night has a lot of folks up in arms.
A recent segment of On Jase on RDS sought to discuss the absence of Weber during Lafleur’s pre-game ceremony, as some, like host Yannick Lévesque, couldn’t believe Weber couldn’t find the time to make the trip to Montreal for the event.
“This is my personal stance. I don’t understand how a great organization like the Montreal Canadiens doesn’t have their captain present, even if he hasn’t played all season, ” said Lévesque on the segment. “I don’t get how he didn’t come back to Montreal.”
It’s understandable for many to feel this way, as neither Weber nor the Montreal Canadiens have addressed the captaincy in an official capacity at this junction, and that’s really the root of the problem. For all intents and purposes, Weber is just a contract at this point. His playing days are over, but the sensitivity of being on Long-Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) makes it a touchy subject across the league.
Former NHL coach Guy Boucher took a more nuanced stance on the subject, stating that the public likely doesn’t know all the details regarding Shea Weber and what’s happening behind the scenes.
“I think it’s very likely that this was discussed from the Canadiens’ end,” said Boucher. “I think if Shea Weber couldn’t be there, there was something on his end that inhibited him from coming. One of the things I’ve learned over time is, that when things like this happen, and we later learn the reason behind it, we all say ‘Ah, ok’. It’s happened to me in the past to jump the gun.”
The Root of the Problem For Montreal Canadiens
The mistake here is not that Weber wasn’t present, but that the Canadiens haven’t officially addressed the captaincy. There hasn’t been a memo or an official press conference. The only time the fans have heard anything about Weber’s retirement was when Jonathan Drouin let it slip out during an interview he gave at the beginning of the season.
Shea Weber à la retraite?😳 pic.twitter.com/NupjUOvXKL
— Hockey 360 (@hockey360) October 26, 2021
Even when it comes to the team’s leadership group at the moment, the team is rotating four “A”s among Brendan Gallagher, Joel Edmundson, Nick Suzuki, and Paul Byron. Even on their official team picture, the club opted for the four assistant captains in the middle, an evident sign that the team doesn’t have a captain present. Injured players such as Jonathan Drouin were present for the team photo, so clearly, the signs are there that the club has moved on in terms of captaincy.
#Habs Caufield says he doesn’t know why he was “between two towers” in Petry and Savard in yesterday’s team picture. Suzuki, sitting next to Caufield, said “You’ll have to talk to whoever made that decision.” pic.twitter.com/4ptEsdgyVG
— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) April 5, 2022
Shea Weber’s contract was almost traded at the NHL Trade deadline, as it had been reported that the Arizona Coyotes, who were looking to take on an LTIR contract due to their fiscal woes, could be interested. After the Trade Deadline, Kent Hughes went on the record to confirm that they came close to moving Weber’s contract, a sign that it’s only a matter of time before the last remnants of Shea Weber, his contract, will no longer be associated with the club. That’s unfortunately all Weber is at this moment, an LTIR contract. The Canadiens have been upfront about wanting to move on from his $7.8M Cap hit, because the player is unofficially retired and taking up precious Cap space. Even if put on LTIR, Weber still inhibits the Canadiens from having any flexibility under the Cap, something Hughes has said he covets greatly.
At the end of the day, Weber will likely not be a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization next season if Hughes gets his wish. He’s sacrificed a great deal for this franchise, repeatedly putting his career on the line. The player deserves his privacy, and many need to stop viewing him as captain simply because the club hasn’t named a replacement yet.
Kent Hughes affirme avoir passé proche d'échanger le contrat de Shea Weber. pic.twitter.com/3kwT0Xh9s9
— GOHABSGO.COM (@gohabsgo_com) March 24, 2022
Growing Sentiment of Abandonment From Fans
Much ink has been spilled over the last year regarding Shea Weber’s absence from the team this season, as he was placed on Long-Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) at the start of the season. Former general manager Marc Bergevin knew that Weber would likely never play hockey again; news that probably crushed the proud and stoic rearguard, who played his entire career through incredible pain.
Earlier this month, the Montreal Gazette‘s Brendan Kelly also brought up the fact that Weber’s presence has been lacking during this difficult season, as the team floundered without a sense of leadership during the first half of the season. He pointed to the lack of public presence, especially towards the fans, as being particularly problematic.
There isn’t much more that needs to be explained in this situation, as former Canadiens general manager Bergevin had already spoken at length about Weber’s reality. It’s an extremely tough situation that other great players like Chris Pronger or Ryan Kesler have had to go through without once coming out in a press conference to address the fans about their medical conditions.
When Chris Pronger went down with a career-ending head injury in Philadelphia early in the 2011-2012 season, there was no press conference involved, nor was Pronger at the Flyers’ opening game at Wells Fargo Centre at the start of the 2012-2013 season. The Flyers began the season with Pronger still listed as captain, and then retroactively removed him from his functions once Claude Giroux was named captain in January of 201,; 14 months after Prongers’ last game.
Weber is reportedly expected to be in Montreal this weekend for the end-of-season medicals. It remains to be seen if he will speak to the media during that time.