When the NHL offered Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson an in-person hearing for his latest suspension-worthy incident, making it the fourth time in the past calendar year that he did something on the ice to warrant punishment, it seemed likely that the league was going to send a very strong message.
On Wednesday, that message was officially delivered.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Wilson has been suspended for the first 20 games of the season for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason finale on Sunday.
Here is the league’s explanation of the play and the suspension.
The NHL points out that while Sundqvist is eligible to be checked on this play, it goes on to say that Wilson “takes a poor angle of approach” and picks Sundqvists head, making the head the main point of contact, while Sundqvist did nothing to alter the position of his head that would make it the main point of contact.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong had this to say on Wednesday regarding the hit: “My issue with it was it was the second period of the last preseason game. I don’t understand the logic of hitting someone like that at that time of year. But in all candor if Washington wanted to trade Tom Wilson there’d be 30 [GMs] to give them a call. That’s the nature of our business.”
This is one of the harshest suspensions the league has handed out in the DoPS era (since the start of the 2011-12 season). As I wrote on Monday, Wilson’s recent history was going to open him for a potentially harsh suspension, the same way Raffi Torres’ repeated incidents eventually resulted in a 41-game ban.
In his past 105 games played, Wilson has been suspended four times, and as noted by the NHL in their video explanation, that is an unprecedented run of suspensions in the DoPS era.
As a result of this suspension he will forfeit $1,260,162.60 in salary and will be eligible to return to the Capitals’ lineup on Nov. 21 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
If 20 games and more than $1 million in lost salary does not deliver the message to Wilson that he has to change the way he plays, you have to wonder if anything ever will.