Patrick Wiercioch may have been the most polarizing depth defensemen in the history of the Ottawa Senators.
Chances are, if you consider yourself an avid fan of the team, you had a strong opinion of him during his time in the nation’s capital.
Through his five seasons with the organization, fans formed quite love-hate relationship with No. 46 (now No. 28). There was never much middle ground during debates; people either wrote rave reviews or demanded he turn in his badge and gun.
Whether or not he deserved to be in and out of the lineup, usually playing third pairing minutes whenever he did find his way out of the press box, for the better part of four seasons Wiercioch did everything the team asked of him.
“It’s not an easy position to be in,” Wiercioch admitted ahead of his first game back in Ottawa last night. “To keep your confidence, to stay positive is a difficult thing especially when that’s happening to you.”
Now filling that role of seventh defenseman that many argue should be a regular presence on the bottom pairing is 24-year-old Freddy Claesson. Possibly a player that can learn from Wiercioch’s body of work with the Senators.
“It makes it a little easier when your team’s having success and you can just be a good teammate,” Wiercioch explained. “But when you’re failing as a team and missing the playoffs like we did a couple of those seasons then it can test your patience a little more. I’m sure (Freddy’s) handling it the best he can.”
Wiercioch’s tenure with the team didn’t exactly end like he hoped it would. After solidifying himself as a second pairing defenseman in the 2014-15 campaign and truly showing he was a top-three defender on that team in the playoffs, the 26-year-old wasn’t given much leeway in the following season. The rope held by Dave Cameron and company could’ve been a bit longer and clasped with far less tension.
“Hockey’s not necessarily a fair game,” said Wiercioch. “You get what you earn and honestly, timing isn’t always what you would hope it to be, but everything works itself out.”
The Burnaby, B.C. native compares himself to a couple other former Senators that struggled to consistently contribute throughout their time in Ottawa. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered.
“I’m just fortunate for the opportunity in playing with the Avalanche now,” said Wiercioch. “It’s been a really good adjustment for my wife and for myself, and just to have that fresh start, that fresh opportunity. You talk about it in the media, guys looking for it like Lazar, Chiasson and sometimes all you need is just a different rink to be showing up to to kind of reset yourself.
“It’s nice to get back to producing a little bit. Obviously we’ve struggled as a team scoring goals, we’re ranked towards the bottom of the league finding the back of the net, so it’s been a challenge to stay positive and have that confidence. But hopefully now that the trade deadline is past some of the guys can kind of breath easy and relax.”
One of the reasons Senators fans will remember Wiercioch in a positive way is his undoubtable contribution to the famous run to the playoffs two years ago. The entire city bared witness to an outright miracle, and Wiercioch played an immensely important part in the team’s success that season.
It was the best of times.
“It’s hard to look past that run that we had as a team here,” Wiercioch reminisced. “When you’re that far out of a playoff spot and you’re able to fight your way back in; just seeing the way the city pulled for us, if you talk to some of the guys that were here, they talk about showing up at the airport and the streets are lined with people. That was exactly what happened. We came back, I think it was from Philly, and you just saw people lining up outside the airport greeting us when we came back. That’s something you’ll never get to experience again.”
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