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NHL hands James Wisniewski a heavy suspension that includes eight regular season games

Sep 26, 2011, 8:44 PM EDT

Columbus Blue Jackets Press Conference Introducing New Players Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski Getty Images

Previous suspensions should have illustrated this point already, but let there be no doubt: Brendan Shanahan is for real.

The NHL’s new head of discipline hasn’t been shy about sending messages with suspensions so far, but Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski received the harshest punishment yet – it will sideline the team’s expensive new blueliner for the remainder of the preseason and eight regular season games.

That blows Jody Shelley‘s preseason-plus-five-games ruling out of the water, especially when you consider Wisniewski’s far more crucial role with the Blue Jackets. One can see the difference in the amount of money Wisniewski will forfeit compared to other players. While Brad Staubitz will give up a bit more than $9,000 and Shelley’s wallet will be short about $67K, missing almost 10 percent of Columbus’ 2011-12 season will cost Wisniewski a whopping $536,586.36.

Breaking down the punishment

Wisniewski administered an illegal hit to the head of perennial NHL hits leader Cal Clutterbuck during the waning moments of the Blue Jackets’ Sept. 23 exhibition game against the Minnesota Wild. Wisniewski received a minor penalty at the time of the infraction. He already missed yesterday’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres as the league mulled over the decision, while he’ll sit out tonight’s match against Washington, Thursday’s contest against Minnesota and Friday’s preseason closer at Carolina.

Obviously, the Blue Jackets will be much more concerned with those regular season games. Here’s a quick look at Columbus’ upcoming schedule, including the first game he’ll be eligible for (in bold).

Oct. 7: home vs. Nashville
Oct. 8: at Minnesota
Oct. 10: home vs. Vancouver
Oct. 12: home vs. Colorado
Oct. 15: at Dallas
Oct. 18: home vs. Dallas
Oct. 21: at Detroit
Oct. 22: at Ottawa
Oct. 25: home vs. Detroit

That span of games shows just how big a blow this should be for the Blue Jackets and their pricey new defenseman. Wisniewski will miss two games against Central Division teams and seven contests versus Western Conference opponents.

A history of illegal violence

To some, this might even rank as an excessive penalty, but don’t forget that Wisniewski is a repeat offender. The rambunctious defenseman has been suspended on four different occasions before today:

  • Two games on Oct. 12, 2010.
  • Eight games on March 18, 2010.
  • Two games on Nov. 2, 2009.
  • One game on March 12, 2008.

Considering his lengthy history of questionable behavior, it’s hard to say if this punishment will get through to him, although Wisniewski must have been feeling pressure to justify that new contract right away. This is a terrible way to begin a hefty new contract and while the point might not really sink in for Wisniewski considering his pattern of mistakes, hopefully other players might start to get the message that illegal hits won’t be tolerated.

If not, we might end up watching a lot of Shanahan videos this season – and I’m not talking about funny commercials, either. Here’s the new head of discipline’s latest suspension explanation video.

  1. Chris Ross - Sep 26, 2011 at 10:08 PM

    I’m really glad to see the NHL and Shanny finally cracking down on stuff it’s really good to see. I think Colin Campbell could have done a much better job in the past. These suspensions are deserved and now that these guys have realized that their actions will have consequences I think we are going to start seeing a significant decline in the amount of dirty hits in the NHL. It’s a great day for the NHL and huge step in the right direction for player safety.

    http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/brendan-shanahan-its-about-time/

  2. sonvar - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    This has little to do with Wisniewski being a repeat offender. Shanahan saw a well known player and decided to make an example. I agree he should be suspended for the hit but 8 games and $500,000 fine is too much. Also considering he has already missed two preseason games and will miss the other already just like Shelley who had a much worse hit.

    This is a bad precedent especially along with the suspension given to Boyes as well.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:04 AM

      I like it. You hit a player in the head and you sit. You cheap-shot a player after already receiving multiple suspensions and you sit for a bit longer. As long as the punishment handed out by Shanahan is consistent I’m all for it

      • sonvar - Sep 27, 2011 at 9:19 AM

        He’s a repeat offender but the last suspension he received was well over a year ago. The combination of the fine and the suspension is outrageous. Either the suspension or the fine should be lowered. Half a million is a ridiculous amount for a fine regardless of which sport it is and what pay you make. In the NFL I know you can appeal these things and I sincerely hope the same can be done in the NHL.

        I guess if nothing else then all I can hope is that Shanahan is going to be consistent on his punishments.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:08 PM

        What does the length between suspensions has to do with anything? So he was able to go a whole season without cheap-shotting someone after doing it 4 times in 3 seasons. Nobody’s going to reward him for that. Also, he isn’t being fined. $500,000 is the total salary he forfeits as the result of the suspension

      • breakaway11 - Sep 27, 2011 at 6:17 PM

        In response to what you said below: “Also, he isn’t being fined. $500,000 is the total salary he forfeits as the result of the suspension.”

        This guy sonvar has his blue jackets goggles on so he can’t see the true facts… he just spouts off dumb stuff that he reads on the CBJ forums from other blue jacket goggle wearers.

    • kdubb1 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:09 PM

      Agreed that Shanahan is making an example. He’s setting a pretty strong precedent. I think we’ll see suspensions increase this year as a whole, but particularly with head shots. I think people’s opinion of whether 8 games is too much or not depends on if the player is on their team. I loved Wiz when he was on the Blackhawks. Tough, gritty. Now that he’s on another team, totally a dirty player and glad to see 8 game suspension.

      And just to correct, he didn’t get fined $500,000 (from what I read above). That’s just the pay he’l forfeit for missing the games due to suspension.

      • sonvar - Sep 27, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        Regardless of whether the label is fine or forfeit that is over half a million he isn’t getting. There isn’t much difference in my mind. He’s is losing half a million for a hit to the head that didn’t result in serious injury. It was a bad move on his part but the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

      • kdubb1 - Sep 27, 2011 at 6:27 PM

        No, sonvar, it’s not “regardless of whether the label is fine or forfeit”. They didn’t choose to label it one way or the other. They are two completely different things. A fine is levied by the NHL IN ADDITION TO any lost salary. The NHL can give a crap if you make $5M/year or $500K/year and can’t start taking salary into account when assessing suspensions. According to your point, Wiz should take a pay cut so he gets “fined” less money.

      • donttouchthedirtypenny - Sep 27, 2011 at 7:27 PM

        Sonvar, you are totally clueless. Actions and intent, NOT injury, should be the determining factor in suspensions. Once injuries are taken into account, and a lesser or no suspension is levied because there is no injury, the message fails to get to the players. Thus, the illegal actions do not stop and a very serious injury is inevitable.

  3. stakex - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:18 AM

    The hit was nasty, it was after the game ended, and it was a headshot… from a repeat offender no less. The suspension should have been hefty, but 8 games? That seems over the top considering there was no injury on the play.

    Either way, Shanahan is simply in “example” mode right now. Do not expect the suspensions to continue at this rate once the season start.

    • donttouchthedirtypenny - Sep 27, 2011 at 9:11 AM

      Stakex, what’s an appropriate length? One or two games? Whether an injury occurred to the offended player should not be considered when dealing out suspensions. If otherwise hefty suspensions are reduced becuase the player hit gets up and skates off, the offenders won’t get the message. Then, the banned activities will continue and, inevitably, someone will get hurt. Intent and the action itself should be the only measure is an action is suspendable, with a minimum set for the action. Then depending repeat offender status, the length of the suspension should only increase. Eight games is an appropriate length for a cheap shot that occurred after the whistle. When you can start measuring suspensions as a significant percentage of the regular season, players will begin getting the message.

      Two games = 2.5% of season; Eight games = 9.6% of season. Typical NFL suspensions are 25% of the season.

      • sonvar - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:51 AM

        The combination of the suspension and the fine is what makes it too much. I can’t recall any fine in the NFL being around or overr half a million dollars. One of those should be reduced the fine or the games suspended.

    • comeonnowguys - Sep 27, 2011 at 10:18 AM

      The fact that the player wasn’t injured should be counted as luck, not as a reason to go easy on Wiz. It’s a trash move by a trash player.

      Should have been more.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM

        Factoring injury into the length of a suspension sets a dangerous precedent. The only thing I disapprove of Shanahan doing is saying lack of an injury factored into one of his decisions (not sure which one). Doing that opens the door for all kinds of dives and embellished/faked injuries

  4. 2qswing - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Shannahan is out of control. I’m all for penalizing the hit from behind cheapshot stuff. But this is way over the top punishment. Clutterbuck had just cheap shotted Fedor Tytin. He and Wiz were jawing and the video shows Clutterbuck making a B line for Wiz at the buzzer and looking right at him. I’m not saying Wiz was blameless and yes he should be fined and suspended. But 8 games and half a mil?? Maybe this was shannahans way of protesting the big contract Wiz got.
    Ovechkin leaves his feet and launches on every check he delivers. Eventually he will do it again and hit somebody high. He is a repeat offender. The hockey world will be watching Shanny.
    By the way … this “targeting the head” stuff is interesting. Dont players target the head risking concussion with every hockey fight? Dont get me wrong, I believe fighting has its place in the game BUT the league is hypoctitical for allowing it yet specifying “targeting the head” as a criteria for suspenson and fines.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:14 PM

      You hit a guy in the head and you sit. That doesn’t seem like an “out of control” policy to me. Quite the opposite in fact, it’s just what the league needs if they hope to get head shots out of the game

      The fact that you view the league as hypocritical for “allowing fighting yet specifying “targeting the head” as a criteria for suspension” leads me to believe explaining the difference between a fight and a cheap-shot will be a big waste of my time. You’ll have to actually watch or play some hockey to figure it out for yourself

    • dcwing55 - Sep 29, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      “Clutterbuck had just cheap shotted Fedor Tytin” Exactly-part of the reason the suspension was so long was that this hit was also getting into retaliation-something the NHL has been trying to crack down on the past few seasons. also, “Clutterbuck was making a B line…” what do you think a B line is? because in the video clutterbuck was basically drifting gently in that general direction like all the other players. And why would Shanny care what kind of contract Wiz got? He has way bigger things to worry about, that’s complete bull.

  5. 2qswing - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    One last thought
    Matt Cooke delivered another cheap shot from behind into the boards last night. His trademark. He too is a multiple offender having been suspended 5 times including the first round of the playoffs last year, for much worse offenses than occurred with Wiz. Lets see how Shanny handles this one. Matt Cooke does not make James Wizniewski money. He makes 1.8 mil/yr. An 8-game suspension will cost him $175K, a far cry from the half mil it cost Wiz. As far as dollars go it would be more appropriate to suspend Cooke for 24 games. This would come closer to the hit in the wallet.
    So hockey fans are we suspending and fining because they can afford it?

    • kdubb1 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:17 PM

      As I stated above, it doesn’t appear there was a fine levied. The 500K is just a result of forfeiting pay for missing games due to suspension. That’s nothing new. That’s always been the case. What a player happens to forfeit in pay is an unfortunate result. Suspensions have and always will be based on the incident itself and the players history. Kind of like real life where if you’re a repeat offender, the penalty is higher. This is because there is a pattern of that type of behavior and more of a likelihood that they will repeat again.

  6. bloojax - Sep 27, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Wow…Shanahan amazes me. This guy shared a dressing room with the biggest cheap-shot artist in pro hockey — namely Todd Bertuzzi — and then levies an overblown penalty on a divisional opponent of his former team. This is the same guy that dropped an open-ice check on a goaltender, essentially helping his teammate Darren McCarty continue a sucker-punch attack on Claude Lemieux (for those of you too young to remember this, here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xx66D2Bea4, at the 1:54 mark; at 2:08 or so, you can see McCarty kneeing a defenseless Lemieux in the face against the boards).

    But those actions are perfectly fine, because he’s your teammate, right Shanny? And you were just sticking up for your linemate, right?

    Many people think you did the right thing with this “repeat offender”…not me. Columbus loses this guy for eight games – seven against Western opponents, with two of them against divisional teams (including one against the Wings). Ultimately, I think you went overboard, took out a major player in the Blue Jackets lineup, and gave your former team a leg up against a significantly improved divisional opponent. Once a Wing, always a Wing, eh?

    • wingsdjy - Sep 27, 2011 at 5:13 PM

      Shanahan left for the Rangers prior to Bertuzzi’s first stint with the Wings.

      I’m certainly not going to defend anyone’s actions during the prime years of the Red Wings – Avalanche rivalry, but pointing out one brawl doesn’t paint a clear picture.

      At any rate, that event was in the past (before all this focus on concussions). All that matters is the consistency of the NHL moving forward. Shanahan was given this role to help improve player safety and bring consistency to the punishments. As long as he doesn’t waiver on his position, there’s no room for argument.

      BTW, is it also “twice a Devil, always a Devil”, “once a Blue, always a Blue”, “once a Whaler, always a Whaler”? Why would you think he pledges allegiance to one club when he bounced around a lot during his career?

    • dcwing55 - Sep 29, 2011 at 2:35 PM

      How is tuzzi the biggest cheap shot artist? He made one dumb mistake and has paid for it, and the guy he hit previously was taking cheap shots as well-not to excuse tuzzi but it’s not like he punched jesus. If you recall Lemieux is the one who cheapshotted Draper’s face into the boards completely destroying it during their last meeting… and how was he completely defenseless? He wasn’t, he just couldn’t stand up and fight mccarty face to face. You also have to understand that it was a different time then, the game has changed a lot since the lockout. Sheriff Shanny has been consistent in applying his penalties, this hit was considered retaliation for an earlier clutterbuck hit-and retaliation is something the nhl has been cracking down on

  7. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Seems to me Shanahan wasn’t in a postiton to suspend Bertuzzi or McCarty. I have no idea what point you’re trying to make here, certainly not a logical one though

  8. 2qswing - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    Way to miss the point big guy.
    As I said in my post, I believe fighting has its place in the game and it actually reduces the number of cheap shots and hi stick work. But the whole purpose of dropping the gloves is to inflict damage TARGETING THE HEAD. I am posing the question, how can the league use targeting the head as one of the criteria for suspension when they allow an activity that is specifically designed to target the head. If the league feels that strongly about it…ban fighting.
    What is out of control in the Wisnieski case is the amount of games and the amount of the fine. I specifically said he deserved some of both.
    Having played D1 I’m pretty sure I have a good idea of the subtlties of the game. If I could draw pictures for you I would. Agree or dissagree, for now you will just have to settle for this lenghty explanation that the rest of the bloggers apparently didnt need.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:42 PM

      I didn’t need it either. I understood exactly what your point was and it was ridiculous. First, read the article and you’ll realize there was no fine, it’s lost salary. Second, learn to use the reply button. Thirdly, I don’t believe for a second that you’ve played competitive hockey because your arguments make no sense

      • 2qswing - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:58 PM

        wow you really got me on the “fine” Its still over 500 large dwarfing anything up to this point.
        “You hit a guy in the head and you sit.”
        Wow that was deep. Lotta thought went into that one.
        What about accidental
        What about if the player getting hit lowers his head a the last minute
        How long does he sit
        What if he has a history of doing this
        What if he has no history
        What if no penalty was called.
        What if he was defending himself from a hit to his head.
        You act like I’m defending hits to the head….I’m not. But it is more complicated than your moronic statement. People who make such statements usually are intellectually lazy or incapable of discussing matters in depth.
        Last.. dont care what you do and dont believe.

      • wingsdjy - Sep 27, 2011 at 4:57 PM

        @ 2qswing
        In the initial explanation of the new rules, it mentions that it doesn’t count as a hit to the head if the player who was hit moves his head into a vulnerable position immediately prior to the hit.

        Overall, this is a pretty heavy suspension, but we can’t really state if it’s too much until we see more sample sets. I’m guessing the fact that he hit occurred after the game was over is what really drove up the length.

  9. 2qswing - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    my last comments were directed at 1943. I forgot to hit reply

  10. 2qswing - Sep 27, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    wings…

    You are probably right about the fact that the hit was after the horn thus driving up the penalty. You are also correct in stating the sample size unde the new rules is not very big yet. I think all would agree though that the Wiz penalty set a hell of a precedent. I cant believe there is no action on the Matt Cooke boarding hit the other night. Talk about a guy with a history.

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