Story highlights: After the Capitals’ Tom Wilson is handed a 3-game suspension, the NHL Department of Player Safety should take a look inward and get back to punishing illegal hits based on the intent to injure.
By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, DCpuckDrop
The NHL’s newest bad boy is the Washington Capitals’ forward Tom Wilson. Some of the ugly commentary thrown in Wilson’s direction is warranted, while some is a result of the player’s reputation and physical style of play. Wilson’s latest excursion into controversy saw the Caps’ enforcer dealt a three-game suspension for breaking the jaw and concussing the Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese. However, a three-game suspension is a little high; one to two games out is more appropriate.
Tom Wilson’s Good Hockey Play Gone Bad
Wilson’s hit on Aston-Reese was a good hockey play that went bad. After watching the replays countless times, it’s clear that there was no shoulder-to-shoulder impact, as many pundits first stated – and that is what resulted in the subsequent suspension. Wilson went high and made contact with Aston-Reese’s jaw before any other part of him. However, Wilson does not take the ice for any NHL game with intent to injure other players, but he does begin every game with intent to play hockey in the physical manner in which it was intended to be played. And, this time around, Wilson got punished by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, as was expected.
However, let’s all think back to Toronto’s Nazem Kadri’s hit on the Boston Bruins’ Tommy Wingels in the first round of the playoffs that also landed Kadri a three-game suspension.
Here is Kadri’s hit on Wingels:
Here is Wilson’s hit on Aston-Reese:
Kadri’s hit on Wingels was cold, calculated, intentional and ugly. Anybody can see the intent to injure from Kadri, not so much from Wilson. Yet, both players got three-games out. Something doesn’t add up there; a borderline illegal hit by Wilson and a premeditated crime by Kadri – and each player gets the same punishment. One thing is certain though; Wilson did not help his case at all when TV screens showed him chuckling with a big smile on his face while the clearly injured Aston-Reese was being helped off the ice. That was plain wrong and showed poor sportsmanship; Wilson has been guilty of that a few times this season and has taken some dumb penalties too.
3 Games For Wilson Will Tilt Series
Wilson’s role in the current playoff series is invaluable for Washington; he’s stepped up his game this season and is a key player on the Capitals’ top line. His absence for three games against the Penguins is going to undoubtedly throw the momentum back to Pittsburgh and will tilt a series that was going well for the Capitals. To compensate, the Caps will likely promote Devante Smith-Pelly to the top line while bringing an inexperienced rookie (Shane Gersich) into the fold as the extra forward. It’s a huge opportunity for the promising Gersich, if it happens, but hardly an ideal situation for head coach Barry Trotz or his club.
Wilson has a reputation, he is a physical player, and he plays with intensity. He plays hockey the way it’s meant to be played – it’s a contact sport. The NHL Department of Player Safety should take a look inward and get back to punishing illegal hits based on the intent to injure. Wilson’s intent was to make a good hockey play, but it went wrong. Had Wilson employed the same intent as Kadri did on Wingels, then Aston-Reese would be nursing much more than a broken jaw. Kadri deserved six games out (not three), but Wilson: one game, two tops.