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

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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.