Strike Jeff Woywitka's name from the list of ex-Dallas Stars still looking for NHL work out there. The Montreal Canadiens announced today that they have signed the defenseman to a one year, two-way deal for the 2011-2012 season. He'll likely play in both leagues next year as injury dictates and be a seventh or eighth kind of guy for them next year. I was able to reach most Stars fans for comment on this and they all said something to the effect of "Yeah, good luck with that."
It's no secret that much of the fan base was glad to see the back of him, but isn't that pretty unfair?
Woywitka's signing here was one borne out of budgetary reasons and met with general indifference. He lived out much of his first season here in anonymity while playing just 36 games and filling in where needed. That's the why he was brought here. That's why he's been signed by Montreal. It's the role for him
When he entered the lineup last season around Thanksgiving, owing to a Mark Fistric injury, it coincided with an extended Dallas run that would go through December and culminate with a share of first place in the Western Conference. I recall the locker room after one morning skate where he was the topic du jour. His plus minus and offensive totals in certain stretches were more than impressive.
He was lauded in the media and it caused Marc Crawford to remark "He's done exactly what you want him to do. He's taken advantage of an opportunity and he's performed very well. That's a great sign from any player, and I definitely think that he has gotten more comfortable playing every game."
Then late January and February happened. His minutes went from 13 or 15 per game to 22+ as injuries necessitated and the quality of his competition rose accordingly. His presence on the second power play unit and Marc Crawford's propensity to use him over a healthy Mark Fistric at times agitated the fan base and neither can be said to be Woywitka's fault.
From February 1st onward he finished with only five points and a -4 rating in a pretty significant role, devaluing the currency he earned in November and December. He was exposed, but it was not a problem singular to him. The injuries and poor record late in the season spawned ugly numbers like that for players up and down the roster.
Woywitka's tale last year was one that simply mirrored the club as a whole. We were writing posts about his fantastic CORSI numbers at one point ("It's not hard to see why Woywitka's a regular in the lineup") and the Dallas Morning News was lauding his performance as well. Three short months later he was a punch line, and now he's headed to Montreal.
His two way deal with Montreal will allow him to be productive with Hamilton, as he was with Peoria when a member of the Blues, and he'll likely be an effective fill in at the NHL level when needed. We wish him luck. As for his time in Dallas...unfortunately it will probably be filed under the category of "ownership imbroglio stop-gaps" and unfairly characterized in the annals of Stars history.
But at least it brought us "Woywitka face."