After giving Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary a potentially dangerous knee-on-knee hit in last night’s 4-3 overtime win, Capitals right wig Tom Wilson was fined for the first time in his three-year NHL career.
The former first-round pick (16th overall in 2012) has developed a reputation as a dirty player in the league, something that has dogged him more than ever this season after an article by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. But this hit was much different from his other controversial hits, and the potentially severe injury he could have inflicted on Sheary was enough to convince the NHL Department of Player Safety to put the hammer down. The fine, which totaled $2,403.67 (the most allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement), is strong but is it enough to stop Wilson’s recklessness?
Wilson was throwing checks left and right last night, something that at times could give his team some momentum. And while Wilson loves to hit, he needs to learn when to keep his emotions in check and to pick the right moments to hit. After taking a hit from Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and being held down for several seconds, Wilson delivered a cross-check to the back of the Russian superstar. While Malkin did receive an embellishment, Wilson needed to contain his frustration and he did not. While the playoffs are always emotional, and Wilson’s adrenaline was probably very high, players still need to have control of them. As for the decision-making aspect of hitting, Wilson’s hit on Andrew MacDonald of the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs was a perfect example of making the right choices. Wilson could have easily skated by MacDonald, or at the most, given him a shove to get him off the puck, but instead chose to board MacDonald; a choice that resulted in a Flyers power play.
These kinds of hits are what gives Wilson his so-called reputation, when, in all actuality, he is a clean player. He is still young at 22-years old, and there is time for him to sharpen his craft, but unless he can learn to control his emotions and make smart decisions, he will continue to give big hits that only give his critics and haters more reason to believe he is a dirty player. His offensive growth this season shows that he has the potential, and if he can refine his physical game, he could become the player the Caps envisioned him being when they drafted him. So what do you think Caps fans? Is the fine enough?
My Michael Fleetwood