Caps' Wilson ejected for hit, but will avoid further punishment

Ben Krimmel
December 01, 2018 - 10:54 am
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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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Nine games after returning from suspension, Capitals forward Tom Wilson finds himself at the center of controversy again.

In the second period of Washington's 6-3 win over New Jersey, Wilson hit Devils' forward Brett Seney from behind and after he had passed the puck. Wilson was given a 10-minute match penalty and ejected for what was deemed an illegal check to the head. 

After the game, Washington head coach Tom Reirden expressed his frustration with what he saw as a bad call.

“I’m having a really tough time with this one because (Wilson) isn’t even intending to make a hit,” Reirden said. “It’s incidental contact and he is following his defenseman down the wall, the player backs into him, he tries to get out of the way of the player, makes himself as small as possible and there’s incidental contact. He’s not even attempting to make a hit, and we get a five-minute penalty that could have cost us the game.”

Seney would leave the ice to receive medical attention, but returned to the ice during the third period.

On Saturday, the Caps were told there would not be a hearing on Wilson's hit.

The Department of Player Safety deemed the hit was not worthy of a suspension because Wilson did not make contact with Seney's head or use force beyond his own momentum and they considered the ejection and penalty on the ice sufficient, according to The Washington Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan. 

Wilson was ejected with the Capitals up 2-1 and after he scored his seventh goal on the season. The Caps, who extended their winning streak to seven on Friday, have lost just one game since Wilson's return.

“I’m still trying to see how it’s a penalty," Reirden said."I think any other player, I don’t know... it’s maybe an interference call. Maybe.”

Devils head coach John Haynes, obviously, felt differently. 

“I thought the refs made the right call,” Hynes said. “I am sure the league will take care of it.”

While Wilson avoided contact with Seney's head, the check looks unnecessary, especially for a player with a history of dangerous play.

In denying Wilson's appeal of his 20-game ban for a check to the head of Oskar Sundqvist, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was rather clear in his condemnation of Wilson's past play and offered a warning about how future incidents may be punished.  

"One true and fundamental test of effective discipline is whether the discipline is of sufficient strength and impact that it has the effect of deterring the Player being disciplined from repeating the same or similar conduct in the future," Bettman wrote. "By this standard, the supplementary discipline previously assessed to Mr. Wilson prior to this incident has clearly been ineffective in deterring his dangerously reckless play."

"I hope that this decision will serve as an appropriate 'wake-up call' to Mr. Wilson, causing him to reevaluate and make positives changes to his game," Bettman wrote. 

Wilson's history is not used in determining whether any hit merits a suspension, per Khurshudyan, but a player's history is used when determining the length of discipline on hits deemed suspension-worthy.

The Caps' most aggressive player has avoided further punishment this time, but this latest incident highlights how fine the margins are for Wilson, a keyman in Washington's Stanley Cup defense.  

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