When the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday that Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was offered an in-person hearing for his hit to the head of Oskar Sundqvist it became almost a given that he is going to be suspended for the fourth time in the past calendar year.
The only two things that remained uncertain were when the hearing would take place, and how many games he will have to sit.
We now know the first part of that as the DoPS announced on Monday afternoon that Wilson’s disciplinary hearing will take place on Wednesday morning in New York City. That is the same day that the Capitals will raise their Stanley Cup banner.
It is then that we will find out how many games he will miss. The guess here is that it will be significant.
[Related: Tom Wilson ejected for another high hit]
For one, the NHL doesn’t typically schedule an in-person hearing for an incident that it does not deem to be suspension-worthy. Assuming that it is a suspension-worthy play, that is when Wilson’s recent track record will come into play.
That is going to hurt him.
The NHL tends to be significantly harsher on repeat offenders, especially when the incidents come within close proximity to one another. That is all especially true for Wilson.
Consider the infractions, the punishments, and the timeline between them over the past year:
- His first suspension came last year in the preseason when he was suspended two preseason games for interference on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas. While Wilson had carried a reputation for being a physical player that played right on the edge, he had, to that point in his career, only been fined by the NHL so he only missed two preseason games. A very minor and meaningless slap on the wrist.
- But in his first game back from that two-game suspension, he boarded St. Louis’ Samuel Blias, which resulted in the punishment instantly being cranked up to a four-game regular season ban.
- After going through the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs without another play that reached the level of supplemental discipline, he was given a three-game postseason ban (probably comparable to a six-game regular season suspension) for a hit to the head of Zach Aston-Reese, knocking him out of the playoffs.
- Now, just 15 games (12 playoffs and three preseason games) later, he is facing another suspension.
All of this means that in the past 106 games that Wilson has played dating back to the start of the 2017-18 preseason, he has done four suspension worthy things.
That is, on average, one incident nearly every 25 games played.
Typically, the NHL has dealt with such things harshly when a player continues to show up in front of them without seemingly getting the message.
In the pre-DoPS days the NHL finally hammered Matt Cooke with what turned out to be a 17-game ban (10 regular season games plus the first-round of the playoffs that year, which turned out to be a seven-game series) when he continued to lay waste to opponents heads without showing any interest in changing the way he played.
Raffi Torres is perhaps the most glaring example during the DoPS era (starting with the 2011-12 season) when he went through a vicious two-year stretch between 2011-12 and the 2013-14 preseason when he was fined once, and suspended four different times, including banishments of an entire postseason series (six games), a 25-game (later reduced to 21) suspension, and ultimately 41-game suspension for a preseason incident after all of the aforementioned ones.
Radko Gudas and Zac Rinaldo also have had suspensions of eight-plus games after multiple infractions over a short period of time.
Wilson isn’t going to get the Raffi Torres treatment (Torres was an extreme case) but this also probably isn’t going to be a simple five-or six-game suspension, either. Five is probably going to be the minimum.
Given his recent track record, the close proximity of each suspension, and the fact this latest one caused an injury (just as the previous one did) he could be looking at double-digit games.
So with that said, what do you think the suspension is going to end up being? Cast your vote.
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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.