Suspension Vindicates Holland

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ken Holland for not signing James Wisniewski.

On Monday night, Brendan “I Look Scarier without a Goatee” Shanahan issued a lengthy suspension to Wisniewski for elbowing Cal Clutterbuck in the head at the end of the Columbus/Minnesota exhibition game on Friday.   He’ll miss the rest of the preseason and eight games of the regular season, which means that the Blue Jackets will have to play most of October without their newly acquired star defenceman.

Allow me a moment to wipe a sarcastic tear from my eye.

When I heard about Wisniewski’s suspension, I was overcome with a feeling of euphoria.  Not because of the injury to Clutterbuck (who has one of the best surnames in the NHL) or even because a division rival is having an early season set-back.  I am happy that this isn’t the problem of the Detroit Red Wings.

Remember the anticipation that all Wings fans had (including myself) at the prospect of signing Wisniewski at the start of free agency?  As a Michigan native, right-handed shooter and 30 point defenceman, he seemed like the perfect replacement for the departed Brian Rafalski.  I admit, I was disappointed when I heard he had signed with Columbus.  However, the disappointment soon turned to anger when I heard his comments on NHL Live regarding his decision:

“For me, knowing Detroit’s history they don’t really pay the market value for a defenseman or any player.  So I didn’t think that was going to be a fit for myself.”

Yep.  Wisniewski chose to sign with a team who has only made the playoffs once (and swept by the Wings),  a limited scoring line with a sub-par goalie, and a slim to none chance of ever touching the Stanley Cup over an elite hockey club…All for the promise of a $33 million payday.

Even though I’ve criticized Ken Holland for failing to beef up the blue line in the off season, I applaud him for not succumbing to a panic signing at the start of Free Agency.  While other organizations were willing to shell out an exorbitant amount of cash for anyone who can skate backwards, he decided to make a few modest signings and rely on his young AHL arsenal to compensate for Rafalski’s exit.   Though I’m still skeptical that this’ll be sufficient enough for Detroit to be a true Stanley Cup contender, I now at least understand why he didn’t pick up Wisniewski’s overinflated tab:

He’s not a team player.

James Wisniewski only plays for himself.  His egocentric actions dictate his play on the ice.  With 13 suspensions in three years (one including another 8 game stretch for a cheap hit on Brent Seabrook), he lacks the discipline to be an effective team player.  He may have great skating and scoring abilities, but it’s of no use in the press box.  He would rather seek retaliation than a win and that type of volatile behavior can be very detrimental to a hockey team (see Matt Cooke).

True, the Detroit Red Wings have a long history of rehabilitating troubled players.  Some are successful (Todd Bertuzzi), others a lost cause (Sean Avery).   Perhaps Holland would’ve taken the same gamble with Wisniewski if the price was right, but $5.5 million a year cap hit is bit costly for mental therapy.

So THANK YOU, Ken Holland.  Thanks for recognizing what a liability an overpriced goon would’ve been for the Detroit Red Wings organization.  You put the interests of the team first and it paid off.

Perhaps James Wisniewski should do the same.

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