Patrick Wiercioch was the Ottawa Senators' second-round pick (42nd overall) in 2008. The 25-year-old defenseman had looked terrific at times, playing a huge part in last season's run to the playoffs (the Hamburglar saga) on the team's second pairing. He was mobile, huge (6'6", 190 pounds), with a very good defensive hockey sense and decent hands. With a few years' seasoning, it was safe to assume he would eventually replace Marc Methot as the team's top two-way defender.
But he's seemingly still working on his consistency, because his post-Christmas play has declined a bit, so much so that newly-re-signed Chris Wideman has been taking his spot alongside Mark Borowiecki... on the third pair.
Beat reporter Bruce Garrioch sure seemed to think he was on the outside looking in, for one, and GM Bryan Murray didn't sound like Wiercioch's biggest fan when he explained why he hadn't traded him at the deadline.
The thing with a defenseman like Wiercioch is that he played University hockey and therefore wasn't eligible to play in the NHL until he had turned 21; give or take a few years in the AHL, he has to be treated like an American defenseman even though he was raised in B.C. and, thus, has to be given until age 27 to see if he'll ever get that consistency at the NHL level or if he's more of a limbo player; the problem is, he's signed - and will have to be qualified - at $2.7M, which is both expensive for a poor (and cheap) Sens team to not have play and a decent amount of pressure on a kid who is in the midst of his development.
But the current NHL contractual rules make it so that teams rush their young players in the league and lose their rights to them just as they reach their peak, where they hit a big payday. Very few GMs have the long-term vision to let them develop in the minors and keep them "up" for more of their top years than their developing years - and that leaves a whole bunch of guys falling out of favour with a whole bunch of teams, just like Jarred Tinordi had for the Montréal Canadiens this season.
I believe last year was a good indication of how he'll play from ages 27-35.
What better time to check #46 off my Sens Numbers Project, with card #99-PW from the 1999 Skybox insert sub-set of Upper Deck's 2012-13 Fleer Retro collection: