After five magical years with the Colorado Avalanche that saw him crowned as the league shootout king and indisputable fan favorite, Wojtek Wolski has faced a bumpy road of trades and injuries, ultimately landing him with the Florida Panthers with his personal lowest trade value yet. I've followed Wolski for seven long seasons now, and while it may seem like a convenient coincidence, I can honestly say he is my favorite player in the league not suiting up with the Panthers. Well now it's a bit of a dream come true, because I never thought I'd see the day Dale Tallon brings Wolski to Sunrise. Wolski may have fallen on tough times, but he still has the potential to regain his prior form and become an answer to the Cats' scoring woes.Unlike Jerred Smithson, I actually have something to say about Wolski. First things first; I do believe trading a 3rd round pick and AHLer Mike Vernace for a 26 year old is a good trade, and this is coming from a guy wary of handing out draft picks like candy. Wolski has had a few tough years lately with nagging injuries and the instability of 3 trades in 3 seasons, meaning there is a risk involved in the trade. That said, he is still a young player with buckets of talent and fills strategic holes and inadequacies in the Panthers lineup, he needs just one bounce-back season to re-establish himself as a 50-60 point player.
When I saw Wolski at his best, he was a first line player. Wolski debuted in the league as a 20 year old and rose up the ranks to a top six player who became a deadly presence on the ice in very short time. Wolski strung together three solid seasons with the Avalanche putting up 50,48 and 42 points respectively on a team struggling for offense, then 47 points in 62 games before being traded to the Coyotes in the 2010 deadline. He'd finish the season with a career high 23 goals and 65 points. His latest two seasons have been disappointing, streched between Phoenix and the New York Rangers he had 35 points in 73 games and just three points in 9 games this season.
The recent downfall of Wolski can be attributed so several factors. Since he was first traded from Colorado, the recurring rumor is that he's had trouble 'getting up' to play, as in a work ethic problem. A more confirmed reason is a nagging lower body injury(groin?) that's hampered his play through the last season. I also saw reports that Wolski was shaken by the tragic death of Derek Boogaard, a player he was quite familiar with from his days in the Northwest division. And of course, constant trading doesn't bode well with a player's confidence.
The upside to Wolski is that he'll have a good chance to crack the top six again with Florida, something you couldn't say with the league leading Rangers. Wolski is a top six player, and he knows that; he just needs time to heal and a fresh start along with it. Given that he takes it slow to avoid re-injuring himself, Wolski brings three things to the lineup that were desperately needed; speed, scoring and shootout skill. Wolski was one of the quickest player on the ice whenever I watched him, though he did have a tendency to coast in the defensive zone. Wolski was a sniper and made himself available for the pass or one-timer, and what is now becoming more important each season; Wolski is a shootout specialist.
I see this trade as a carbon copy of the Kris Versteeg trade, both players showed promise earlier in their careers, fell victim to trades and injuries, fell out of favor with their organizations and were snagged by Tallon hoping a change of scenery and extra ice-time could restore them to their former glory. If the plan doesn't work for Wolski, at least the only cost was a third round pick, which may be replaced in the coming days as Tallon looks to cull off his overstocked forward lines. This trade is a low-risk, high-reward move that may pay dividends to wash away the scoring drought Florida finds themselves in.
Some odd-n-ends about the recent addition:
- Wolski will wear #8 with Florida, a number he hasn't worn since the good old days with the Avs.
- Before anyone takes notes from this guy, I can confirm it's pronounced Voy-tech Vole-ski. Or when referring to him by his last name, most will just say Wolski. Your choice.
- According to our very own Alex Calloway, Wolski will be the first ever Panther of Polish decent.
- Wolski is familiar with Scottie Upshall from his time with the Coyotes, meaning the two may have chemistry as wingers on the second line.
- Wolski has 17 points(8G/9A) in 27 playoff games, where he has always stepped up his game.
- As mentioned before, Wolski is a shootout specialist. He's gone 4-9 with the Rangers, 0-8 with the Coyotes and 18-34 with the Avalanche. He has a tremendous set of moves, but Western Conference goalies figured him out while with Phoenix. Fortunately for him, he'll have plenty of new targets in the Eastern Conference. Notice how he always goes first.