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Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games, can return immediately

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Tom Wilson is back.

A neutral arbitrator has ruled that Wilson’s suspension — originally a 20-game ban for his latest hit to the head of an opponent — has been reduced to 14 games and that he is immediately eligible return to the Washington Capitals’ lineup.

The Capitals are in Minnesota on Tuesday night to play the Wild, and it is expected that Wilson will be in the lineup.

Since Wilson has already served 16 games of the original suspension due to the length of the appeals process, he will get back two games worth of salary — just a little more than $378,000.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety initially suspended Wilson 20 games for a preseason hit on St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. It wasn’t the hit itself that was worth 20 games, but the fact that it was the fourth time in less than a calendar year he had been suspended for such a play, something the DoPS argued was an unprecedented run of discipline.

Wilson initially appealed the ruling to the NHL, but it was upheld by commissioner Gary Bettman.

At that point Wilson was eligible to appeal to a neutral arbitrator.

[Related: Wilson suspended for 20 games]

That neutral arbitrator — Shyam Das — is the same one that reduced the 27-game suspension for Nashville Predators forward Auston Watson after he pleaded no contest to domestic assault charges during the offseason. Das reduced that suspension to 18 games.

Das was was previously a neutral arbitrator for Major League Baseball but was fired by the league in 2012 after overturning Ryan Braun’s suspension.

In this case Das ruled that Wilson violated Rule 48 and illegally hit Sundqvist in the head, but he did not support the Department’s reasoning for a 20-game suspension. In reaching his conclusion for 14 games, Das took Wilson’s previous suspension (a three-game playoff ban for a hit to the head of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese) and doubled it to six games because it was a playoff suspension (one playoff game is considered two regular season games in the eyes of the league), then doubled the six games because of Wilson’s status as a repeat offender. He then added two games to account for Sundqvist’s injury.

Parros and the NHL’s DoPS had tripled the value of his postseason suspension to arrive at the original 20-game ban.

Wilson’s run of supplemental discipline started last preseason when he was given a two-game suspension (both preseason games) for a hit to the head of Blues forward Robert Thomas.

In his first game back from that suspension (another preseason game against the Blues) he earned a four-game regular season suspension for boarding Samuel Blias.

His third suspension, the three-game playoff game, came 87 games after the Blias suspension.

He played in only 15 games before the hit on Sundqvist.

Overall, it is four suspensions for Wilson in a span of 105 games played, and that does not include several borderline hits in the playoffs (Alexander Wennberg, Brian Dumoulin, and Jonathan Marchessault) that received additional scrutiny but ultimately did not rise to the level of league discipline.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blues hope returning Fabbri can finally get some health luck

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As a smaller scorer, Robby Fabbri was already a hockey player who was easy to root for. His terrible injury luck makes it a no-brainer, really, so his latest attempt to get on track with the St. Louis Blues is absolutely worth watching.

After word surfaced that the shifty winger was activated from IR, Blues coach Mike Yeo admitted to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford that he’s pulling for him, too.

“I’m excited for him personally,” Yeo said. ” … I don’t know how long it’s going to take for him to get right back on top of things. I do know that players that are relentless and tenacious and as driven as (he is) usually find a way to get there quicker.”

Yeo added something undeniable: Fabbri’s been through “an awful lot.”

Fabbri’s 2017-18 season ended before it began, as a knee injury sidelined him through that campaign. The 22-year-old actually hasn’t played in an NHL game since Feb. 4, 2017, as his 2016-17 season was also derailed by health issues. Those problems bubbled up again, thwarting his hopes of beginning this campaign on a healthy note.

That’s tough to stomach for anyone, particularly for a player who’s still trying to establish himself as a difference-making, quality scorer.

It stings that much extra because, while he hasn’t been unstoppable with the Blues, there have been flashes of first-round brilliance. Fabbri’s scored 66 points in 123 regular-season games despite modest ice time (14:16 per game on average). A struggling St. Louis team could really use another catalyst, so if Fabbri is reasonably healthy, this could be a real boon for the Blues.

(Not to mention fans who enjoy watching creative scorers.)

The Blues look to bring Fabbri along slowly at first. According to Left Wing Lock’s listings, he’s currently slated to play on the fourth line. That said, that trio is relatively intriguing: Robert Thomas is a promising prospect/bad music joke machine, while Oscar Sundqvist deserves his own set of kharmatic bounces considering the hit he suffered from Tom Wilson.

Maybe the most promising early opportunity comes on the power play. While Fabbri is on the second unit, it’s one of the more intriguing No. 2 groups in the NHL, as he joins Alex Pietrangelo, David Perron, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz. Honestly, that could easily pass as a top group on a shallower squad.

The Blues are off to a frustrating 3-4-3 start, and Fabbri knows all too well how it must feel like to be snakebitten. Perhaps both the player and team can improve their fates together?

St. Louis hosts the Vegas Golden Knights – another team that’s dealt with some irritating ups and downs so far this season – on Thursday night.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Capitals’ Wilson set to appeal 20-game ban, again

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson has adopted this mantra and will now plead his case to an independent arbitrator.

After NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Wilson’s 20-game suspension on Thursday, the latter is expected to “appeal the appeal,” according to Sportsnet’s John Shannon.

Wilson was handed the 20-game ban after an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist during the preseason. The hit was one thing, but the lengthy suspension came on the heels of three separate incidents inside a calendar year for Wilson.

Bettman released his 31-page decision on Thursday, which outlined why he held up Wilson’s suspension, which was handed down by George Parros and the NHL’s player safety department.

Per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Wilson’s appeal will be heard next Wednesday by Shyam Das. Das was the same arbitrator that reduced Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson‘s suspension stemming from a domestic violence incident over the summer, so It wouldn’t be surprising to see Wilson’s suspension reduced through Das.

Wilson has already served nine of the 20 games (10 by the time the appeal is heard next week). At this point, it would appear this is more about retaining as much salary as he can rather than getting back on the ice.

Wilson is losing over $1.2 million because of the suspension. He signed a six-year, $31 million extension over the summer.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

No surprise: Bettman upholds Wilson’s 20-game suspension

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In a decision that should surprise no one, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the league’s 20-game suspension of Capitals forward Tom Wilson for his preseason hit on Oskar Sundqvist of the Blues.

This isn’t a dead end for the appeal process, as Wilson can now take his case to an independent arbitrator.

Again, these steps were more or less expected. Bettman’s explanation ended up filling 31 pages in a PDF (stemming from a reported seven-hour hearing), which … while seeming ridiculous at first, actually feels pretty predictable when you consider how thorough Bettman can be.

The interesting parts come in the finer details about how this process works, and maybe just as fascinatingly, how the NHLPA approaches this situation.

Drawn-out process 

It’s worth noting that Wilson’s hit happened on Sept. 30, while the suspension was announced on Oct. 3. Today is Oct. 25. That’s a lot of time elapsed, and this process isn’t even over with.

The Washington Capitals have already played eight games, while they’ll play their ninth on Thursday and 10th on Saturday. It will take time for Wilson’s case to come to that independent arbitrator, and this process can be especially protracted for suspensions that aren’t 20 games long. Perhaps this is something the players should address in the next CBA, as to some extent, this is as much about getting Wilson’s money back, rather than helping him suit up again as soon as possible.

NHLPA defends Wilson, but what about Sundqvist?

When it comes to hits and their aftermath, the NHLPA has – justifiably – been accused of going the extra mile for the hitters, while doing very little for the players who suffered the hits.

Such an argument could be advanced by this document, as the players union went far to defend Wilson, contending that the suspension should be reduced to eight games. One of many whoppers in that document included this comment about Wilson:

Actually, eight games might have been a concession, based on this “primary” argument:

Interesting. More than a few people believe that Sundqvist was “thrown under the bus” in order to advance an argument in Wilson’s favor, and again, this really brings up some soul-searching questions for the NHLPA.

***

It all seems a bit absurd, but this process is ultimately deep in legalese.

Honestly, such methods actually distract from a generally understandable goal to protect players and reduce the amount of illegal, dangerous hits, as much as possible.

Whether this process accomplishes that or not, there are some funky steps in this process.

Overall, this is another reminder that it’s not just on NHL executives and officials to clean up the game. The players have a role in that, and if the NHLPA’s measures capture the culture and viewpoints of the majority of players, it sure seems like both sides have a lot of work to do in the bigger picture.

More directly, it appears that Wilson’s next step is to appeal to an independent arbitrator. PHT recently went over Bob McKenzie’s insight on that process here.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Will NHL reduce Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension?

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Tom Wilson will get a chance to state his case to reduce his 20-game suspension via an appeal hearing with the NHL on Thursday, a process Bob McKenzie discusses in the video above this post’s headline.

To catch you up to speed, note that this is part of the appeal process where Wilson brings his case to Gary Bettman. After that, Wilson also has the option to bring his case to an independent arbitrator.

Wednesday’s New York Rangers – Washington Capitals game represents the sixth of 20 games. Note that Wilson loses more than $60K for every game he’s suspended for, so a reduction in his sentence could mean a lot of dough for the polarizing hitter.

What are his chances of getting a lighter punishment, then? As McKenzie notes, they aren’t great, particularly when it comes to Bettman cutting down a suspension.

That said, there are two cases worth noting:

  • Raffi Torres’ hit on Marian HossaIn July 2012, Wilson-like hitter Torres saw a 25-game suspension fall to 21 games for his check on Marian Hossa. This is probably the most directly comparable situation, at least when you consider the types of hits and the rap sheet for the players involved.
  • In June 2014, Dan Carcillo saw an “abuse of official” suspension reduced from 10 games to six.

Now, a neutral arbitrator might be more likely to ease the duration of Wilson’s suspension. Consider these two cases, which aren’t necessarily directly comparable:

All things considered, it’s easy to see why Wilson would go through this process. It’s quite plausible that he’ll get back into the lineup sooner and lose less money from the suspension, even if it’s not fair to call the possibility “likely.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.