Saturday, August 18, 2012

What to Expect From: James Wisniewski

In this series, we're going to go through each player, examine what they have been able to produce in the past and what it would be reasonable to expect from them in the coming season, mostly using logic. The goal is to have a statistical expectation for the team as a whole, to see how well they might fare in 2012-13. This is an alternative to just throwing your hands up in the air, crying, drinking excessively (although this activity doesn't exclude drinking) and playing russian roulette alone in my basement all summer.

The sixth player in our series was the biggest pickup last offseason for the CBJ: James Wisniewski.

"No, seriously. It totally makes sense now, why I got suspended all those games and Shea Weber got one game. Why are you looking at me skeptically?" 

Wisniewski is an interesting player. He's an offensive defenseman who is known more for his effective point shot. It's effective because it's consistently hard, on target and he positions himself and times it so that it gets through defenders more often than not. This is actually tough to do and makes him a valuable commodity.  It also makes him first in line to be the PP quarterback and he seems to be good at  that. He isn't Rob Niedermayer and you won't often see him lacing beautiful passes through guys, but he is able to make the easier plays that he needs to make. From what I've seen, he's also decent on the rush. Wiz's defensive zone presence is sometimes described as shaky, but I thought it was decent last year. His physical play is well above average, but Wisniewski is known to get out of hand about once a season.

Originally, Wiz was a hometown hero, playing in Michigan for the plymouth whalers. He earned his way to a captaincy, a CHL defenseman of the year award and got himself drafted by the Blackhawks. He was known as a really intense guy who would get his hands (knuckles) dirty when it was needed and often when it wasn't needed. After coming up through Chicago's system, he moved to Anaheim, Long Island and then Montreal in an unusual player movement sequence. He also found himself in the principal's office more than once, one time for trying to decapitate Brent Seabrook and another time for making a hand gesture (I continue to believe he was actually stifling a cough). He also battled through some injury issues, but nothing that seemed like a major pattern.

Here are his stats from hockeydb:

Regular SeasonPlayoffs
1999-00Compuware AmbassadorsNAHL505111667
2000-01Plymouth WhalersOHL53623297220193101334
2001-02Plymouth WhalersOHL621125361003961236
2002-03Plymouth WhalersOHL521834526035182101214
2003-04Plymouth WhalersOHL501753706331937108
2004-05Norfolk AdmiralsAHL6671825110451342
2005-06Norfolk AdmiralsAHL617283567441236
2005-06Chicago BlackhawksNHL19257360----------
2006-07Norfolk AdmiralsAHL1006685----------
2006-07Chicago BlackhawksNHL502810393----------
2007-08Chicago BlackhawksNHL687192610312----------
2008-09Chicago BlackhawksNHL3121113146----------
2008-09Rockford IceHogsAHL231404----------
2008-09Anaheim DucksNHL17110111631212310
2009-10Anaheim DucksNHL693273056-5----------
2010-11New York IslandersNHL323182118-18----------
2010-11Montreal CanadiensNHL437233020460227
2011-12Columbus Blue JacketsNHL486212737-13----------
NHL Totals377331421753391814517

If you take his recent years as a more realistic way of looking at what we could expect out of Wiz, I think the best one would be 2010-11, when he split the year between the Islanders and Canadiens. He was in a contract year, so he was probably at a level that he won't reach every single year. But he did manage to put up a respectable 10G and 41A for 51Pts over 75 GP.

To call Wisniewski the biggest offseason pickup from the summer of 2011 is a little strange. He was originally felt to be worth around $4 million and was questionable at that value. Instead, Howson signed him to a hefty contract that comes out to $5.5m per year over 6 years (front loaded). And Howson was subsequently laughed at by most GMs and fans. But when you think about all the cap space the CBJ have and how difficult it is to lure young UFAs to Central Ohio, it begins to make a bit more sense.

So Wiz came to Columbus and most of us grew very fond of him before the season even started. He was everything Nash never was. Verbose, passionate, inked up and amped up. This past season saw him get infamously suspended 12 games during the preseason and he struggled with one injury after another after his return. He was good when he was on the ice - putting up decent numbers and forming a positive bond with Jack Johnson, once JMFJ was acquired. He seemed like the only guy on the ice who wasn't resigned to losing and found losing to be unacceptable. This is something the team needed so badly for the last decade but never seemed to get from Rick Nash. But when all was said and done, he'd played 48 of 82 games and couldn't save the CBJ's most talented roster ever from putting together the worst season ever. The dispatch had a good article on his struggles at the end of the season.

Wisniewski is a tough player and he has a winner's attitude. He can play good hockey within the prism of his abilities. He needs to learn how to control certain parts of his game in order to stop handcuffing himself in order to be helpful to the team, though.
"It's just a flesh wound!"

My prediction for him next season is that he gets healthier and matures a bit. Unless he's a complete moron (the jury might still be out on that one), he will start thinking before he acts upon violent or gesture-related impulses. He should start the season on the top pair with Jack Johnson in their "controlled chaos" thing and be the primary power play QB. We should expect him to put together similar numbers to 2010-11 so long as he can remain healthy.

Prediction for James Wisniewski in 2012-13: 12G, 40A for 52Pts in 70+games. I knocked on wood about the injury thing.

Lord Chumley was fond of his nipples, and reached for them at every opportunity.

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