Wed Jul 20 04:51pm EDT
Jeff Carter(notes) and James Wisniewski(notes) were introduced as members of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, sitting at a table with their general manager Scott Howson with rows of empty seats behind them. Which, come to think of it, is somehow both the most appropriate and inappropriate backdrop for a Blue Jackets press conference.
Fact is that that Carter and Wisniewski represent two major corrections for lingering problems that have led to a lack of success on the ice and a lack of bodies in the stands for Columbus.
As Howson said, it's been his goal for years to land a No. 1 center, and now he has one. Meanwhile, he said, "we haven't been good on the power play for a long, long time and I think part of the reason is we haven't had a guy to run it. We think we have that guy now" in Wisniewski.
So while these guys answered the usual questions about pressure and coming to a new team, there was that undercurrent of tension throughout the presser: This is it for Howson.
This is it for this incarnation of the Blue Jackets.
One guy is signed through 2022, the other through 2017. If this isn't the No. 1 center the team's needed, or if this isn't a defenseman who can successfully make the power play something more than an embarrassment, well then what?
To their credit, both players seem to understand this, with Wisniewski in particular determined to make this work.
"I want to be the missing piece of the puzzle. I don't want to be the guy who plays a year here, and you can get somebody else. That was the biggest thing coming into unrestricted free agency, was I wanted to come to a team and be the missing piece," he said.
The Blue Jackets have some pieces already. One of the few moments of levity in the press conference was when Carter listed the better players on the Blue Jackets -- Steve Mason(notes), Rick Nash(notes) and R.J. Umberger(notes) -- and neglected to list the guy two seats away from him among them, which drew some laughter from the players and media.
But The Wiz is a player that's been overlooked for years. Here's James Wisniewski, being honest, on "the excitement of coming to Columbus" after a well-traveled career:
"Being part of the organization with the Chicago, we were bottom of the barrel, so I saw the upside of what we can do with the right draft picks and the right signings. The team obviously won the Stanley Cup a couple of years ago. Obviously playing with Anaheim, the market wasn't that big, but going to Long Island, you're in New York but, obviously, you're in Long Island, and then going to Montreal you're pretty much the New York Yankees of baseball. The spotlight's on you. Obviously the more money you make, the more pressure you have. We're just looking forward to coming in and, like Jeff said, quieting all the critics."
The Wiz doesn't come off polished. He doesn't come off as a guy who just broke the bank in free agency. He comes off as a player that's had a string of 1-year contracts and bounced around the NHL like a super-happy fun ball, now having the chance to set up his family financially and try and replicate what the Chicago Blackhawks did while he was there: Go from "the bottom of the barrel" to championship contention.
One gets the sense that the money isn't going to provide him with solace if the Blue Jackets suck next year, which is what you want to hear from a new addition like Wisniewski.
"Obviously, I want to be on a winning team," he said. "I don't want to lose everyday. That makes life miserable."
And who wants to be miserable, right?
Here are Carter and The Wiz; the audio doesn't sync with the video, giving this thing an awkward charm: