Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gee Wiz

The Ducks were out of gas at the end of their road trip, dropping this afternoon's game in Madison Square Garden 3-0. Giguere pitched a gem through two, but was ultimately undermined by two third period penalties, one a roughing call to Whitney for putting Sean Avery in a headlock, the other a token Artyukhin call.

The freshest legs on the ice (other than Giguere's) belonged to Sheldon Brookbank, who dressed in place of a scratched Nick Boynton, and Brendan Mikkelson, who was called up from Toronto. Together, the two players were asked to eat the minutes of recent ice-time gormandizer James Wisniewski, whose shoulder was injured in last night's game against Philadelphia.

Daniel, Wisniewski's on a bit of a trial contract this year. We assume he wants a multi-year at 3M+ per, and the Ducks gave him one year at 2.75M to prove, amongst other things, he could play a healthy and productive season. If he can't stay healthy this season, should the Ducks re-sign him?

I think the Ducks should consider giving Wisniewski a contract extension. If he is hurt, maybe Bob Murray can muscle him into a pay cut for a short period of time. Wisniewski has demonstrated an ability to eat minutes, connect on the home run pass (...occasionally) and deliver a few big hits. That's definitely worth 1.5-2M a year if he can play 60 games a year. I don't think a 3 year $6 million deal would be a poor investment, considering the prize of next year's free agent class is Duncan Keith. There won't be a lot of defensemen available who can play 23 minutes a night, be physical and are younger than 30. Although, Ruslan Salei might be an option, or we can take a shot at Jordan Leopold.

I'm as frustrated as anybody. Wisniewski had 4 points in our first 4 games. More importantly, I think he's the nastiest blueliner on our team. That might not be saying much, but it's something we desperately need. The absence of it on the free agent market and the need to have a guy who can play 23-25 minutes a night make Wisniewski very valuable. But you can't pay a guy big money to only pay 40-50 games a year. If the Ducks lock up Wisniewski, it better be for less money.

I've been very vocal about how much I hate this contract. Paterson has found some quality journeyman defensemen for us over the years, and I just can't justify paying Wisniewski to fill a hole that another player could fill at half the price, especially when we had him set for arbitration. I think Bob Murray has trouble NOT paying the guys he likes. That's why he screwed up the Beauchemin deal, and that's probably why he blinked first heading to arbitration. He's got blueline colored glasses on, and he can't see this guy's a major injury risk.

Granted, this is his shoulder, not his knee, but I think Marian Gaborik proved in Minnesota that, at some point, fragility is unforgivable. Now, if it's a strength and conditioning issue, he really should have taken care of it this year, his trial contract year. If it's a freak luck thing, we should really get him away from our players. And if it's just genetic, my heart goes out to him, but injuries and ailments kept even Super Mario away from the game-- mere mortal athletes can't expect more.

The thing that spells 'don't re-sign him' for me is that he plays a physically taxing game. He likes to hit, he likes to mix it up, he likes to block shots and he likes to take shots on net. His style of play puts him at risk for injury every shift, and Carlyle just added four minutes to his ice time. I mean, injuries will happen to any player, but as a professional athlete, you have to have some sense of what your body can and can't do, and Wisniewski should probably file his physical game under the 'can't do's.' And I think he knows that, but he has to make a choice to either figure out why his body is betraying him and fix it or change his style of play altogether. THAT version of Wisniewski will have earned the contract he wanted this offseason.


Anonymous said...

Arthur's comment about "fragility" is stupid. Gaborik was injured, how is that his fault? And he's a great player, maybe Minnesota should have signed him to a contract with a clause that he had to play a minimum of games to get his full salary. Oh well, he's doing great on the Rangers so far. Will he play a full season I don't know, but the Wild really messed up by getting rid of their best player for nothing.

Anaheim Calling said...

First, it's not about getting his salary, it's about the giant hole he left in the salary cap for a club that had to financially account for him during those seasons. Don't forget that Gaborik held out prior to the groin injuries and refused to sign some pricey extensions prior to the hip surgeries that would supposedly fix the groin injuries. That's right. If you MISSED that, his groin injuries were caused by a hip problem that, if fixed, should guarantee he never has a relapse of his chronic groin injury.

Now, maybe I'm way off base, but I think a professional athlete is bound to make sure he's physically able to do his job, not for the sake of his employer, but for the sake of his own earning power in the very short window of time that he has to make money playing a sport. And management can expect to be protected by that self-interest.

Gaborik had millions of dollars and access to specialists that could make sure he continued to earn millions of dollars. No injury should ever be a simple injury. Athletes should be checking themselves out thoroughly with every injury and seeing specialists. You can say there's a stigma about going to the doctor, but would you respect a race car driver that never looked under his own hood? Wisniewski should be doing everything in his power to make sure there's nothing physically wrong with him, or he should play to protect himself. He should NOT continue to put himself at peril without improving his health and potentially leave a consistent $3M hole in the Ducks' payroll.