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Was Janine Weber a bust in Boston?

Big things were expected of the star Austrian forward when she signed with the Pride.

Janine Weber of the Boston Pride searching for open ice while being pursued by Lisa Chesson of the Buffalo Beauts during the 2017-18 NWHL season.
Pat McCarthy

The Boston Pride signed free agent center Janine Weber on June 7, 2017, one month after hiring new head coach Thomas Poeck. The move brought Weber, a Providence College alumna, back to New England. It also connected the NWHL’s only Austrian-born player with the NWHL’s first Austrian coach.

More Than Just Kessel’s Center

On paper, the Weber signing was a huge victory for the Pride. In the 2016-17 season, her second in the NWHL, Weber realized her potential as an elite forward with Amanda Kessel on her wing. She put up 22 points in 17 games for the Riveters that year — including 12 primary points at even strength and two shorthanded goals — and finished tied for third in the league in scoring.

Janine Weber taking a faceoff against Amanda Pelkey of the Boston Pride during the 2016-17 NWHL season.
Al Saniuk

Weber’s production in her second year as a Riveter skyrocketed from the nine points she had in the NWHL’s inaugural season. One might suspect that Weber’s numbers were inflated because she had Kessel on her wing, but there is more to the story than that.

Kessel, sidelined by injury, played in just eight regular season games for the Riveters in the 2016-17 season. During those eight games, she had 12 points. Without Kessel, Weber still had 10 points in nine games.

Playing with Kessel definitely brought out the best in Weber, but it’s also clear that she found another gear in her own game. She created offense for the Riveters both with and without Kessel on her wing, and in so doing, she established herself as one of the NWHL’s top centers.

With Boston

Weber’s first season with the Pride did not go as planned. Despite being reunited with four teammates from the Boston Blades’ 2015 Clarkson Cup winning team, Weber finished the 2017-18 season with seven points in thirteen games.

In short order, Weber found herself centering Boston’s second line, behind Jillian Dempsey on the Pride’s depth chart. Poeck spent much of the 2017-18 season searching for depth scoring in his lineup, which was not easy to come by with Boston’s shortcomings in the transition game.

As the Pride’s second line center, Weber saw less time on the power play than she had with the Riveters. As one might expect, Boston’s lack of scoring depth greatly limited the potential of the team’s power play.

Weber was one of more than a half dozen Pride skaters who failed to register a power play point this year. That was a significant drop off from the six special teams points she had in 2016-17 with the Riveters — four of which came on the power play.

One of Weber’s three special teams goals scored during the 2016-17 season with the Riveters
Mike Murphy

Another factor in Weber’s disappointing year in Boston was an injury that held her out of the lineup for three straight games. That same injury also ruled her out for the NWHL’s All-Star Weekend in Minnesota. It’s also worth mentioning that Weber scored three goals and put eight shots on net in the three games leading up to her injury.

The Pride scored three goals in those three games — all of which were losses — without Weber. Three games is a pretty small sample size, but the eye test also made it clear that Boston’s offense suffered in Weber’s absence.

The Next Chapter

Weber has a lot of hockey left in her legs; she will be 27 this June. It also appears that she is healthy again. In early April Weber put up two points in five games with Team Austria at the Division I (Group A) Women’s World Championship.

Once again Weber is a player we should keep a close eye on with free agency approaching (June 1). If she re-signs with the Pride, we should expect bigger and better things from her. Weber’s numbers this year may not have been great, but it would be a stretch to call her a bust. Pride fans only got to see glimpses of the player that Weber has already proven she can be.