Tom Wilson Verdict Shines a Light on NHL Inconsistenciesby Carter LaCorte May 5, 2021 1 comment
On Monday night, Capitals forward Tom Wilson punched Rangers player Pavel Buchnevich while he was in a defenseless position. Wilson then proceeded to slam Buchnevich’s protector, Artemi Panarin, which caused Panarin to miss the rest of the game, and most likely the remainder of the 2020-21 NHL season.
Preliminary word is that NYR Artemi Panarin won’t play the rest of the season.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 4, 2021
The reaction from hockey fans around the social media world started with outrage, as you would expect. Wilson has been suspended five times in his NHL career including a 14 game ban (shortened from 20) for a headshot on St. Louis’ Oskar Sundqvist in 2018.
Hockey fans thought that this would be the time Wilson got the hammer from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. He is considered a repeat offender from his seven-game suspension earlier this season for a hit on Boston’s Brandon Carlo which sent Carlo to the hospital.
Wilson was not suspended a single game. Just a $5,000 slap – sorry, tap on the wrist. Wilson will be good-to-go for Washington’s next game. This is a new level of bad from the DoPS. Watching the video of the incident (below), one can see that Buchnevich is legally knocked to the ground. He does nothing to instigate a reaction from anyone. The punch to the face from Wilson is completely unnecessary and when Panarin comes in afterward, Wilson’s slamming of Panarin to the ground is even more dangerous than anything else he did on this play.
It says something about Wilson’s reputation when there is a nine-and-a-half-minute video on YouTube that is just a compilation of Wilson causing injuries. That was uploaded on February 11. Since then, Wilson has injured Panarin, Carlo, and also shook up Pittsburgh’s Mark Jankowski on a dangerous hit.
A Failure by the League
Everything about this “punishment” is an embarrassment. The things that should force a lengthy suspension were there. Repeat offender? Check. Player injured? Check. Panarin will not be seen again this year. Potential for something more severe? Check. Panarin could have suffered much more serious head injuries from his fall.
Every time that Wilson does something like this, one must look back at the biggest suspension in NHL history. Sharks enforcer Raffi Torres was sentenced to 41 games for a hit on Jakob Silfverberg in a 2015 preseason game.
That was Torres’ fifth suspension. It is a mark Wilson has already hit, and would have passed had the league made the correct decision on Tuesday. There is definitely a rebuttal argument for Wilson. He could claim that what Torres did was much worse, but was it 41 games worse than Wilson’s actions? Not at all.
The Capitals are headed to the playoffs in a few weeks, and this would have been the perfect time to make Wilson pay. There is no excuse for him to be playing in any more regular season games this year. There is not even a good excuse to say that he should be in any postseason matches. The NHL has shown too much tolerance for Wilson’s actions. When a player inevitably gets injured by a hit from him later this year, the league is responsible.