Monday, March 23, 2015

James Wisniewski: Keeping a Promise

James Wisniewski: Blue Jacket for Life
In late June, 2011 Scott Howson traded the Blue Jackets 5th round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for the right to negotiate with James Wisniewski immediately prior to free agency.  Wiz, as he was come be affectionately known by the fans and media, was pleased that someone would trade for his rights, and signed a lucrative free agent contract with Columbus.  At that time the known defects with our team was at the center position and the right side of our defense.  The acquisition of Wisniewski solidified that situation.

Wisniewski came to the Blue Jackets with a reputation as a physical player with a cannon of a shot.  His defense had its question marks, but he was brought here to score, not to be a shut down defenseman.  Wisniewski did everything he was advertised to be while he was a Columbus Blue Jacket.  Yes, that included the imperfections in his game, but his imperfections were known when he came here, and he delivered the goods at the other end of the ice.

Wisniewski lead the team in assists in 2013-14, in the successful campaign to the playoffs.  He also shattered the record of points by a defenseman in 2013-14 with 51, surpassing the previous record of 45, set in 2002-03 by Jaroslav Spacek.  Wiz battled injuries during his stint with the CBJ, as was advertised before he got here.  Many of those arose from his propensity to block shots on goal with any body part available, and were more a testament to his grit and determination than his fragility.  I wonder how long it will be before a defenseman eclipses that mark?

Wisniewski's other significant accomplishment while with the Blue Jackets was propelling Brendan Shanahan to a position of power in the NHL in the Department of Player safety, which he ultimately leveraged to the lucrative post of president of hockey operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  No matter the extent of the injury, NO PLAYER has been assessed a suspension the magnitude of Wisniewski's for delivering an elbow to Diving Cal Clutterbuck.  You could ruin a guy's career, and you wouldn't be suspended for the length of time that Shanahan suspended Wisniewski to "set an example".  Shanahan, you owe Wisniewski a job after hockey, because you stole so much money from him to set yourself up.  Wiz took this debacle by the NHL with a stiff upper lip, which needs to be remembered when he retires.

Wiz, I'm not a big fan of this trade.  But there it is.  Whining won't help either of us.  I will cheer for you loud and long Tuesday night when we have your tribute.  But next year, you're the enemy.  I know you'll forgive me for that.  But Wiz, when you retire, you're a Blue Jacket.  I am grateful for the energy and passion you brought to your role here.  You are who you are.  You were that before you got here, but you delivered while you were here.  I'll never forget your slap shot, nor will I see one like that for awhile apparently.  So it goes.  I wish you well James Wisniewski!


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