Last night’s game in Sunrise, Florida was the possibly the Capitals’ worst performance of the season. But it also had other negatives, including the five-minute major and game misconduct handed to 21-year old right Tom Wilson for a boarding call on Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell.
While the hit may look vicious to some, it’s not one that required a major and game misconduct. Wilson plays a physical game and other teams felt the need to complain to NHL Player Safety about it. While Wilson’s hits can do damage, he is not a dirty player. He doesn’t hit to hurt and he has NEVER been suspended or fined in his three-year NHL career. Out of all the possible teams that may have complained, the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers seem to be the most-likely. This is because in the past, Wilson has laid some big hits against those teams, including a 2013 one on Flyers forward Brayden Schenn, and last year’s big hit on Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky:
Regardless of how vicious and dangerous these hits may look, Wilson is not a dangerous player; and according to the player himself, it’s affecting how he plays the game. As he told CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley: “Yeah, it’s getting pretty frustrating. I know when I came into the league three years ago I don’t think that would have been looked at as even close to a penalty.” Wilson was referring to his bearhug of Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel after Roussel took Wilson’s teammate (and roommate) Michael Latta to the ice. It was this incident that got fans thinking: Is the NHL really targeting the Caps’ youngster? It seems that Wilson is almost “scared” to hit because it’s as though any hit could trigger a penalty. Here’s some further evidence: in his first 12 games he was handed only three penalties. In his last 13 games, he has been given eight. It’s simply absurd that the NHL and NHL Player Safety are targeting a player that has a clean record, never hits to hurt, and isn’t a dirty player by any means. They should be focusing on players WITH a record, such as Boston’s Zac Rinaldo, who was not suspended for a dirty hit on former Philadelphia teammate Sean Couterier earlier this season.
Nevertheless, it’s time for the Capitals to make a stand for Wilson. Without Wilson playing his game, the Caps have had trouble setting a physical tone in games and owner Ted Leonsis or general manager Brian MacLellan need to make inquiries with the NHL and NHL Player Safety. The Caps’ representative for the National Hockey League’s Player Association (NHLPA), Jason Chimera, could also discuss it with NHLPA President Donald Fehr. While what I’m saying may be a bit extreme at the moment, if Wilson continues to get reprimanded for clean, hard hits, he won’t be able to play to his full potential and if he were to be suspended, all heck would break loose in the DMV. And the Capitals will need Wilson’s physical presence in the playoffs for a deep run.
By Michael Fleetwood