Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber played in his 500th career NHL game last night. Through those 500 games he has totaled 271 points on 102 goals and 169 assists. He has another 20 points (10G-10A) in 43 career playoff games.
Weber’s first game came on January 6th, 2006, in the midst of the best regular season the franchise has ever enjoyed. He played 11:08 and took three shots but didn’t log a point in a 3-1 loss to Detroit. That happened in his third game, on January 15th against Pittsburgh, when he got the primary assist on an Adam Hall goal in a 5-4 Nashville win. The regular-season milestones were wrapped up on April 6th when Weber scored his first NHL goal, beating Reinhard Divis on a slap shot in the second period of a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Weber played 28 games in all during his rookie season, putting up 10 points (2G-8A). He matched his two regular-season goals with two in the playoffs, but Nashville lost in five games to the San Jose Sharks.
Weber’s second NHL season (2006-07) saw him establish himself as one of the game’s top up-and-coming defensemen. He put up 40 points (17G-23A) in 79 games and was named to the NHL YoungStars team on All-Star Weekend. His third year (2007-08) was cut by one-third due to a dislocated kneecap and an injured leg, but in 54 games he still put up 20 points (6G-14A). During the off-season he signed his first contract extension with the Predators, a three-year, $13.5-million deal.
The 2008-09 season, his fourth in the league, saw Shea Weber begin to develop into the player Nashville Predators fans know and love today. He posted career highs in almost every important category – games played (81), points (53), goals (23), assists (30), and penalty minutes (80) – and finished fourth in the voting for the Norris Trophy. Still, the team missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03.
Weber’s individual numbers dipped just a bit in 2009-10 but the team returned to form and made the playoffs once again. He posted 43 points (16G-27A) in 78 games, along with a career-low PIM count of 36. Most of his production came in the first three-quarters of the season before the Olympics, where he won gold with Team Canada. Nashville was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs once again.
In the 2009-10 offseason, after Jason Arnott was traded to the New Jersey Devils, Shea Weber was named the fifth team captain in Nashville Predators history. He responded with 48 points (16G-32A) in 82 games and led the Predators to their first-ever playoff series victory, in six games over the Anaheim Ducks. Nashville lost in six games to Vancouver in the second round, but Weber had a career playoff high of five points (3G-2A) in 12 games. He finished second in voting for the Norris Trophy, with 445 voting points to Nicklas Lidstrom’s 464.
The 2010-11 offseason saw Shea Weber take the Predators to arbitration, where he was awarded a one-year, $7.5-million contract. He justified that price tag by posting another big season in 2011-12, with 49 points (19G-30A) in 78 games. Nashville once again won in the first round of the playoffs, knocking off the Detroit Red Wings in five games. And once again they lost in the second round, falling in five to the Phoenix Coyotes. To complete the deja vu trifecta, Weber finished second in voting for the Norris Trophy, this time to Erik Karlsson. During the free agency period he signed a 14-year, $110-million offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers, but remained a Nashville Predator after the organization matched Philly’s offer.
Weber ended the 2011-12 season with 99 career goals. He went a little longer than expected before scoring number 100 thanks to a scoring drought to kick off the shortened 2013 season, but it finally came on February 16th against the Anaheim Ducks. Now, with 500 games under his belt, he has reached the first major longevity milestone of his career.
During his time in Nashville Weber has played alongside most of the biggest names ever to don a Predators sweater. Among those he’s shared time with who have long since left the team are Paul Kariya, Steve Sullivan, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Tomas Vokoun, Peter Forsberg, J.P. Dumont, and Jason Arnott. He was also partnered on the blue line with Ryan Suter for most of the latter’s career with the Predators.
These days Weber actually outshines most of those players in the pantheon of Predators greats, a testament to not only his talent but also his hard work on and off the ice. Nashville Predators fans are looking forward to an even better next 500 games from Shea Weber.