It's been a little bit of a strange opening to the preseason schedule. Certainly, some players are testing Senior VP of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, who already has handed down five suspensions. At that rate, Shanahan is going to be a pretty busy guy.
I'll lead off this week's edition of the Tuesday 10 with a few thoughts on one of the suspended.
When you ask scouts about James Wisniewski, they give you a pretty straight-forward description: "Skates well, heavy shot, competes, too often makes poor decisions with and without the puck." That last part is the biggest reason why he's been with five different organizations since he entered the League with the Blackhawks in 2005-06.
The Blue Jackets, desperate for an offensive-minded defender who could help their struggling power play, were hoping the good would outweigh the bad when they signed Wisniewski to a bloated six-year, $33 million free-agent contract in July.
It didn't take long, however, for Wisniewski to live up to his reputation, taking a reckless run at Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck during a preseason game this past Friday. As a result, he was slapped with an eight-game suspension. This marks his fourth suspension since March '08 and his second of such length.
In this case, he's really put his new team in a bind.
The Blue Jackets' defense isn't to be confused with Canadiens' blue line of the late '70s. Columbus needs Wisniewski to work on its power play. More importantly, the Jackets need to get out to a good start if they're going to make the playoffs in the ultra-competitive West. Now, they'll have to find that good start with their big-money summer acquisition watching from the press box.
The negotiations between the Kings and star defender Drew Doughty took another turn Monday when top team executive Tim Leiweke decided to speak publicly on the matter to Los Angeles Times reporter Helene Elliott. In a nutshell, Leiweke said the team isn't going to blink in these contract talks.
At some point, you have to wonder about the collateral damage to the long-term relationship between the team and its young star defenseman.
The Kings are scheduled to leave for Europe after Saturday's exhibition game against the Avs in Las Vegas. While things can change on a dime in contract negotiations, I don't get the feeling that Doughty will be on that flight.
On Saturday night, Sabres GM Darcy Regier talked to CBC's Elliotte Friedman about the renovations to the club's home dressing room and hockey facilities within the First Niagara Center. Regier said the team did its homework, checking out other top facilities around the League; but they were most influenced by Vancouver's setup at the Rogers Center.
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff gained an intimate knowledge of that building through his work as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The Canadian squad used the Canucks' dressing room during the tournament.
Having spent all he can spend on player salaries (that pesky old salary cap!), new owner Terry Pegula is using his wealth to upgrade the franchise in all areas. That seems pretty smart. If you have it, why not use it.
In Toronto, young defenseman Jake Gardiner is pressing the coaching staff for a spot on the club's opening-night roster. The 21-year-old Minnesota native has impressed with his skating, puck skills and poise. Those are three nice attributes for a young defenseman.
Gardiner came to Toronto from Anaheim on Feb. 9 as part of a multi-player swap. Leafs GM Brian Burke certainly was familiar with the former University of Wisconsin standout from his time on the West Coast. When Burke was managing the Ducks, he selected Gardiner at No. 17 in the 2008 Entry Draft.
When Burke had the chance to add him to the mix in Toronto, he grabbed it. Now, some eight months later, Gardiner might play himself into an NHL job.
Rangers defenseman Marc Staal has been suffering post-concussion symptoms. Staal was concussed after receiving a hit from brother Eric last February. (Photo: Getty Images)
Rangers fans must be more than a little concerned about the post-concussion issues that have plagued top defender Marc Staal. Wisely, the team has been particularly careful with him during training camp. He has been able to train and practice, but he has been kept out of intra-squad scrimmages and preseason games to this date.
As a further precaution, he didn't accompany the team on their Monday night flight to Europe, where the Rangers will complete their exhibition schedule and prepare for their regular-season opener against the Kings in Stockholm, Sweden, on Oct. 7.
Clearly, these types of injuries -- and their recovery time -- have become impossible to predict. The Rangers remain hopeful that Staal will be ready to join the club for the opener, but no one can be certain.
If Staal is sidelined for any length of time, the Rangers' young blue line likely will become even younger and not nearly as tough to play against. I have to figure there's a lot of fingers crossed amongst members of team management. The Rangers need a healthy Staal if they're going to push into the top third of the Eastern Conference.
Without much fanfare, the Canucks released veteran winger Owen Nolan on Monday. While the 39-year-old winger will continue to look for an NHL opportunity, he might have reached the end of the line in North America.
Last season, Nolan skated for Zurich in the Swiss League.
If Nolan does decide to call it quits, he'll be the latest from the terrific 1990 Entry Draft class to hang up his skates. At present, Jaromir Jagr (No. 5, Penguins) and Martin Brodeur (No. 20, Devils) are the only members of that class currently holding NHL jobs.
Back then, Nolan stood at the head of that prestigious group, being selected No. 1 by the Quebec Nordiques. Of the 21 players selected in the first round, 11 played more than 900 regular-season games. Eight others, selected in subsequent rounds, did the same.
By all accounts, Salak played reasonably well in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Wings on Sunday. The 24-year-old Czech is looking to make the Hawks after having a strong season in the Swedish Elite League.
Emery reportedly will get his next shot to impress on Friday against the Penguins.
It will be an interesting decision for Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville, who'll have two young goalies if he opts to keep Salak.
Watching the "official" Winter Classic announcement Monday, I couldn't help thinking about how Rangers head coach John Tortorella is going to deal with HBO's 24/7 crew.
I don't get the sense he's going to enjoy all the attention, particularly if the team is struggling at any point during the three-week window during which the cameras are rolling. It will be a fascinating watch.
On the other bench, Peter Laviolette isn't much for giving away too many secrets, either. Both coaches are very interesting guys and they've both won a Stanley Cup. If they can embrace the circumstance, I think you'll see there's a lot more than meets the eye.
Not that the preseason means anything at all, but the Sharks have rolled through their first four exhibition games, outscoring their opponents, 16-5. Former Miami University star Tommy Wingels has 3 of those goals for San Jose.
On the flip side, the Canadiens have managed only one win in six tries, averaging 4 goals-against per game. I can't imagine that Jacques Martin is all too happy about that.
Finally, I think we may have to suspend the preseason schedule for two or three days while the players take another look at the video provided by the League's Hockey Operations Department. Plus, I have to think Shanahan would love to have a few minutes to take a deep breath. All the video work can take a lot out of a guy.