Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
Oct. 11, 2018
Of all the things that go into making Sidney Crosby the great player that he is, his on-ice awareness is one of the most significant. At any given point in time, Crosby knows who’s on the ice, where they are and where the puck is. He is aware of the ice quality, as well as the stiffness of the boards, and consistently takes those things into account in various decisions that he makes throughout the night.
That’s a trait commonly shared amongst hockey’s elite — it’s not possessed exclusively by Crosby, or the league’s other premier stars. Any top player in today’s NHL has the same ability to create something out of what’s seemingly nothing.
Well, according to Washington, Tom Wilson is one of the best in the game today. Wilson, who was suspended for 20 games by the NHL after blindsiding a vulnerable Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason finale, will forfeit about $1.26 million during his suspension, based on his average annual salary. The Capitals gave the 24-year-old winger a six-year, $31 million contract in July, and he skates on the team’s top forward line alongside superstars Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Having a tough, gritty winger that can perform consistently alongside Ovechkin and Kuznetsov has done wonders for Washington, who was at a loss without Wilson during his three-game suspension during its Eastern Conference semifinals series versus Pittsburgh last spring for a hit that led to a broken jaw for Penguin Zach Aston-Reese.
Wilson’s transgressions against Sundqvist and Aston-Reese are barely his only head-hunting ventures, however. Wilson has a long history of brutality dating back to 2013 that includes multiple suspensions, as well as additional hearings with the Department of Player Safety that never materialized into anything more. Nevertheless, Wilson’s hits are all drawn together by one common denominator: excessive contact to the upper region of an unsuspecting opponent.
Wilson’s first suspension finally came during the 2017 preseason, when he was suspended by the NHL for two exhibition games for a hit on the Blues’ Robert Thomas. Eight days later, Wilson received a major penalty, game misconduct and eventually a four-game suspension for another hit against St. Louis in an exhibition setting, this time against Sam Blais. He relinquished $97,560.96 in game salary as a result.
Wilson hasn’t exactly learned from his mistakes since, evidenced by egregious hits against Aston-Reese and Sundqvist, among others.
The NHL came down harshly upon Wilson with its latest decision to suspend him, rendering him ineligible for the season’s first quarter. The length of his suspension mirrors that of Todd Bertuzzi’s 2004 suspension, which was levied as a result of Bertuzzi’s sucker-punch to the head of Colorado forward Steve Moore. The punch was one of the more atrocious on-ice acts in NHL history.
So, which one will it be? Is Wilson simply a head-hunting enforcer? Or is he truly worth the $31 million that Washington gave him, blissfully unaware of the major impact he’s having on others’ lives?
He should probably figure it out soon.
Otherwise, the Department of Player Safety will do it for him.