If you repeatedly tell a child that touching the stove when it’s lit will result in a burn only to see them continue to do it, a different measure is required.
Case in point: Tom Wilson.
On Wednesday afternoon, the NHL Department of Player Safety taught Washington Capitals’ headhunter a lesson, suspending Wilson for 20 games. After accumulating three suspensions in the past season (104 games), including one in the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, the 24-year-old forward laid St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist out with an illegal check to the head during a preseason game on Sunday.
The Blues’ center had come up the wing with the puck and was making a move across the blue line when Wilson delivered the high blow. After sustaining the hit, Sundqvist didn’t feel like getting up off the ice for a few minutes, and I couldn’t blame him. A nasty gash on his cheek and an official “not good” diagnosis from head coach Mike Yeo was the initial damage, but the real impact was the lack of reasoning behind such a malicious action in a game that doesn’t count.
Straight up, the hit was an avoidable one, but the thing that really stuck in my throat was the fact that Wilson did this in September. Why take out a player in the preseason? The hit isn’t warranted during any type of game, but doing it during the preseason lands a special blend of hooligan on Wilson’s actions. It’s something that gives the game a bad look and will only lead to the NHL trying to neuter the physicality of the game even more.
20 games was the right play, so I applaud the NHL for actually getting it right. Ten games was my hope, so the double-down action here by the league is refreshing. All that is left to do is have a fourth line grunt suit up for the Blues-Capitals game and dish out a healthy beating to Wilson this coming season.
The real question is simple: will Wilson finally learn his lesson? Dealt one of the largest suspensions for an on-ice occurrence in years and missing nearly a quarter of the regular season would cure most people of their asshat ways, but with this guy, you never know. He may find a way to do it again, and find himself missing a half-season or a full one.
Again, the hit was avoidable. Wilson left his feet and went way too high on Sundqvist. There was no need for it, and let’s hope the NHL doesn’t punish other physical players who stay within the lines of conduct for one man’s actions. That’s the thing to watch here.
Thanks for reading,