This player preview is about Tommy Wingels—if you want to stop reading right now I won’t hold it against you. Still here? OK, but don’t say I didn’t give you an out from a piece about a fourth-liner who couldn’t cut it in either San Jose or Ottawa.
73 GP – 7 G – 5 A
47.6 CF% – 53.4 oZS% – 46.6 dZS%
10:30 Avg. TOI
A Look Back: Up until last January, Wingels played his entire illustrious career with the Sharks where he had a quick arc upwards and an equally quick decline back to irrelevance. His brief efflorescence was 2013-14 and 2014-15—seasons in which he scored over 30 points and averaged over 16 minutes a night. That production promptly fell off a cliff, and by the middle of last year San Jose was shipping him off to Ottawa not even for a better player per se, but as a way to free up cap space for Tomas Hertl who was about to come off LTIR. You can’t blame the Sharks for that move, although if I were Wingels I’d probably be a little miffed. At least he could (maybe) comfort himself with the fact that the Sharks’ PK numbers got worse right after he left (probably coincidental but hey, it would suck to get shipped off somewhere so an injured guy could get paid).
Anyway, he proceeded to do jack shit in Ottawa, where he managed a whopping four points in 36 regular-season games and zero in the Senators’ nine playoff games. In San Jose last year at least his shot percentage was respectable (11.9) and he was only a lackluster -2. But all that also tanked once he got to Ottawa (5.1 shot percentage and -9), and the Senators didn’t care to bother re-signing him even for their fourth line, which was and will remain shitty with a bunch of nobodies and fuck-ups. I mean, come on, Alexandre Burrows gets to stay and you’re cut loose? Woof.
To top it all off, Wingels broke his left foot over the summer, and while it didn’t keep him out of training camp or the preseason, it certainly couldn’t be helping matters. So the question then becomes, what could this guy possibly bring to the table?
A Look Ahead: In what has become a weird game show called Wheel of Forwards, Wingels is another potential Neanderthal for the fourth line. He’s not a newbie, and we know how Q feels about (most of) those types of guys. Technically he has playoff experience, which will also (undeservedly) burnish his credentials with Q. Nevermind the fact that he has two—count ‘em two—goals in a total of 54 career playoff games. (His CF% for the Senators’ playoff run last year was 52.0, but that’s cold comfort given how it ended.) Expect to hear about this supposed “experience” should he make an appearance alongside Kero in the bottom six this year. Other bullshit tropes will include his “grittiness” and “aggressive style of play,” which are really just code words for “half-assed skater killing some ice time.”
Now, in his defense, Wingels scored a nice goal in the preseason game last Thursday when Hinostroza and Kero set him up perfectly. He also can theoretically be used on the PK, and given the Hawks’ shittiness in that department last year, it’s tough to impugn or reject a guy who could in any way contribute to that (although that’s exactly what I’ve been doing here so maybe it’s not that hard). But if the Hawks are looking for a big body who can be part of a traditional checking line, they should realize that even Wingels’ hits declined precipitously last year (in the 200s from 2013-2016, then down to 125 last year). I’m not really sure what they thought they were getting.
But for shits and giggles let’s play Wheel of Forwards and think who could take that fourth-line spot. Bouma? He would be a better bet because of his defensive zone experience. He has comparable size and a comparable distance from his glory days of 3-4 years ago. Dauphin? Already sent down. Tootoo? No. Just no. Hayden? Ah, and here the wheel stops. Realistically Hayden stands the best chance because Q has taken a shine to him (confounding the prevailing wisdom that Q distrusts young players because he does until situations like this where he suddenly doesn’t). Is it deserved? Too early to say, but he’s about the same size as Wingels and could theoretically be a younger, faster version of the type of player Wingels is.
So expect to see our own Tommy Boy make an appearance here and there. Maybe he’ll play his way out of the press box; most likely he won’t. But don’t worry, we’ve got an Ivy League oaf for that fourth line.
All stats via www.hockey-reference.com
Photo credit: fanpop.com
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