After preaching a need for consistency on disciplinary action on illegal hits and plays in the league, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety had a prime opportunity to act upon that need after Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman boarded Capitals right wing Tom Wilson during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, a play that resulted in a penalty for Stralman and voicing of frustration from Wilson. Sadly, the league decided that the play (one that usually draws the ire of the league because of its dangerous nature and results) was not deserving of a suspension, and in doing so, missed a prime opportunity to send a message to its teams.
Regarding this Stralman boarding on Wilson, I’m told it’s unlikely to rise to the level of a suspension. Don’t expect any supplemental discipline. https://t.co/EBCJiJ0W7A
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) May 16, 2018
Per The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, the NHL decided Wednesday that the hit by Stralman (which resulted in Wilson laying on the ice for several seconds, clearly shaken up and a knot on his head) was not worthy of any supplemental discipline, something that not only exemplifies the league’s seeming inability to deliver the consistency in disciplinary action they constantly preach, but its seeming willingness to turn a blind eye when a player who has received supplemental discipline before. Wilson himself seemed to express his frustration on the latter after Tuesday’s game:
“That’s a lot of ‘don’ts’ for me. From what they’ve been telling me, that’s a lot of ‘don’ts.’ If I make that hit, 100 percent I’m probably sitting out. So we’ll see. It’s playoffs. It’s an intense time of year”
Anton Stralman boards Tom Wilson pic.twitter.com/6Utmql31oq
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 16, 2018
Wilson also mentioned the criteria the league looks at when deciding if a hit warrants discipline:
“Everything I’ve heard all year: He sees (jersey) numbers for a good amount of time, and he elevates through the back of my shoulder and head.”
The league had a prime opportunity to institute the consistency they so desperately want to on an obviously dangerous hit in an important game at the most competitive time of the NHL season. Their ultimate failure to act upon that is not only an embarrassing one, but it is a missed opportunity to send a message to the league that they are serious about ending hits that could potentially result in serious injury to the player on the end of said hit. And until they begin to consistently do so, their decisions (or lack thereof) will continue to be taken as nothing more than a slap on the wrists.
By Michael Fleetwood