|James Wisniewski, A Guy Who Came as Advertised|
One thing this post is not, is that it is not a 'what if' post. But it is about exploring why we don't seem to have what we had. My answer, as an amateur fan, is pressure on the points. When James Wisniewski's big, often off target, slap shot was heading for the net, shot blocking was at your own risk. You want to block Wiz' shot, you got to limp off the ice. This attribute is now missing from our blue line, and it allows opposing forwards to challenge our defenseman at the offensive blue line with impunity. With Wiz back there it was a calculated risk.
We got Wild Bill Karlsson in trade for Wisniewski. In the long term, that is a winner I think. In the short term, not so much. Unless you take into account that Wisniewski is out for the year. In that case, we are in the same place we would be in, but Karlsson won't be a rookie next year. If we can find a heavy shot from the right point at low cost, we'll be back where we started, plus a young centerman. Unless of course Wennberg hones that laser from that point, and it starts going in. Dang I wish Wennberg would shoot. But he usually sees the block, so he does the right thing most times unless he passes out of the slot, which he is prone to do.
So the trade is arguable. I didn't like it at the time, because while we solidified defensively, we lost a huge offensive weapon. James Wisniewski came as advertised. He was gonna take some dumb penalties, he would get the odd serious injury, and he would pour in assists from the right point. Oh yeah, and he was a bit weak defensively. On the other hand, I wonder how he would do with Tortorella. Be that as it may, we became defensively better when we traded Wisniewski. And our blue line became offensively anemic. In franchise history, James Wisniewski is 3rd in Points for Defensemen, 3rd in Goals by Defensemen, and 2nd in Assists. His footprint on our record book is large.
I am aware that much of the big winning streak occurred after Wisniewski left last year. But he had set the example about letting them loose from the blue line, and it was easy for people to follow in his foot steps last year. It's a lot easier to be the guy with the second best shot on the blue line than it is to be the guy with the best shot. This year, defensive scoring has totally tanked, and I think the lack of a threat on the blue line allows other teams to focus on the forwards. There are other problems to be sure, but there is no offensive threat at the defense at this time. which causes collateral damage.
So my buddy Bill noted today that Mike Reilly got sent back to Iowa by the Wild. Hope you enjoy that AHL salary buddy. It might make you better in the long run, and it might not, but you'd be playing on this roster. And it is that kick in the pants to Jarmo and JD that really hurts this year. Reilly was supposed to be the offensive threat from the blue line that was going missing, but he opted out to ride the bus down in Iowa. Maybe the right thing for him in the long term, you never know. And maybe he wouldn't have been ready for what we needed here. So it goes.
Zach Werenski was named the Captain of the USA squad for the World Juniors. Quite an honor. Hey, make sure you make friends with Auston Mathews. It is to be hoped you guys have a chance to be teammates at the NHL level. Considering the situation with Reilly above, the CBJ are going to need to make a push at Werenski to go pro next year. I think they are going to need him.
Merry Christmas Everyone!