Saturday, 1 December 2018

Wilson Escapes Purgatory

As Tom Wilson spoke with officials who were guiding him off the ice last night, I'm betting there was some discussion about how he can't keep putting himself into these situations where he potentially could be suspended for questionable hits. Maybe I'm wrong - entirely possible - but if it wasn't mentioned to him, it should have been after Tom Wilson's latest decision on the ice seemed like it could have landed him in hot water once again. Note the tense of the verbs in that last sentence because what transpired today will not see Tom Wilson sitting for another suspension thanks to what appears to be a far more lenient Department of Player Safety than perhaps what Tom Wilson deserves.

First, let's take a look at what could have had Wilson in hot water today after Wilson decided to throw a fairly late hit from behind on New Jersey's Brett Seney in open ice.
While the officials on the ice determined that there was contact with Seney's head, the reviews show that the initial point of contact was the back of the shoulder. Yes, it was fairly late considering that Seney had gotten rid of the puck long before getting hit, but the good news is that Seney wasn't hurt, did not require concussion protocol, and returned to the game minutes later after being checked out by trainers.

The bad news for Wilson and Capitals fans was that the call made by the officials with respect to the hit to the head would stand as Wilson was ejected from the game for his aggression. That call would, in turn, trigger a review by the Department of Player Safety, so Wilson's fate was left in the hands of the men who had suspended four times in the last year and the men who had recently had their 20-game ban for Wilson overturned.

Before we get to their assessment, reporters found Seney after the game and asked him about the hit. He stated, "... it was more kind of [the] back of my shoulder."

I don't know if Seney's comments would be considered when looking at the hit, but today the Department of Player Safety ruled that there would be no additional supplemental discipline based on the penalty awarded the night before. In other words, Wilson avoided the guillotine on this one because he committed interference and not a check to the head.

I'm not sure that rationale makes the hit any safer, but it should be concluded, especially for Capitals fans who feel the NHL is out to get Wilson, that there is no "favoritism" in play when it comes to suspending Wilson. The NHL concluded that while the hit may be late, the ejection from the game was penalty enough.

Let's be clear about one thing here: the NHL won't give Wilson as much rope on his next late hit. For a guy who has been back for just ten games since his last suspension and who spoke about changing his game and not being that kind of player, this goes directly against everything he stated he wasn't. Wilson had more than enough time to avoid this hit altogether, so one has to ask whether he actually is changing his game or whether he's simply saying what everyone wants to hear.

It appears the latter is the case, and this is why Wilson will never get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to dangerous hits. If his name continues to pop up on the Department of Player Safety's radar, his hits will constantly be scrutinized whenever he steps on or across the line when it comes to dangerous or questionable hits. Like the sign to the right, until he develops a long-standing record of days without incident, it will always be assumed that Wilson is likely to re-offend sooner than later. Living under that microscope is a consequence of his prior actions, and only he can rehabilitate that image.

This hit was late and it was from behind on Seney, but the Department of Player Safety has determined that there was no contact to the head so Wilson will not be punished any further. If I'm Tom Wilson, I count my blessings on this one because many fans were calling for another extended period of time off. The next thing I'd do if I'm Tom Wilson? Stop being a predator on the ice.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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