Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Lesson Learned?

If you're a fan of the Vegas Golden Knights, the image to left is one you never want to see. That's Jonathan Marchessault after taking a blindside hit from Washington's Tom Wilson, and it was a relief to see Marchessault back on the ice after spending some time in the quiet room. I've watched this hit over and over last night and through today, and I question what goes through Tom Wilson's head. While this hit wasn't as dirty as the one he threw on Pittsburgh's Zach Aston-Reese, there's still a lot needing examination regarding this play. We'll break it down here, and decide whether or not Wilson will receive a fourth suspension this season.

Let's start with the video of the hit in question.
There's a lot to unpack here, so let's start working through this as objectively as I can. This is Tom Wilson, after all, so there might be some subjective feelings that creep into this examination.

First, it's pretty clear to see that Tom Wilson's point of contact on Jonathan Marchessault was the shoulder. There is nothing wrong with a shoulder-on-shoulder hit despite how violent it may appear. Shoulder-on-shoulder is legal at any level of hockey, so it doesn't even meet the standards of a penalty based on the initial point of contact.

Second, Wilson did hit Marchessault on the blindside, but has that ever been a penalty? Not that I can recall. As long as the hit is legal, a blindside hit is unfortunate but not illegal. It was shoulder-on-shoulder, as established above, but Wilson caught Marchessault watching his pass. That happens, it has happened in the past, and it will most likely happen again.

Third, you might be able to assess a charging penalty to Wilson based on the bee-line he made towards Marchessault from the distance at which he started, but he didn't leave his feet at the moment the hit was thrown. Unless the officials were watching his movements as he came back into the play, a charging call would be tough to justify on the ice. At worst, the hit is a minor infraction, so it's not like that will be discussed at the Department of Player Safety. In this case, there was no call nor was there any need to review the hit.

Finally, some have said the hit was late. I can see where that is coming from, and Craig Simpson of Sportsnet stated as much on the video. The problem is that it isn't that apparent in full speed. Yes, it comes after the puck has left Marchessault's stick, but it doesn't appear to be as late as it looks in slow-motion. Call me crazy, but I don't see the hit as being gratuitously late.

As I've tried to prove with the four pieces of evidence above, I don't think there's anything that is so egregious that Wilson deserves punishment from the Department of Player Safety. Watching the hit over and over in full speed, you wonder why Tom Wilson would put himself in that kind of situation after he has already been suspended once in this year's postseason, but he seems to have walked that fine line between legal and illegal very carefully on this hit.

I'm not convinced that Tom Wilson has learned his lesson after three suspensions this season, but I can't find any reason why he should be suspended a fourth time after this hit, and it seems the NHL feels the same way as there will be no supplemental discipline for Wilson.

There will be no absolution for past sins with Wilson when it comes to the NHL, but you have to think the NHL will be keeping a closer eye on Wilson if he's going to try and test his boundaries once more. A leopard cannot change his spots, so it's likely a matter of when for Wilson when it comes to him sitting again.

It just won't be for the hit last night.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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