There’s really no defending Tom Wilson and his body of work when it comes to dirty deeds done during his NHL career.
He’s caused scores of injuries, thrown nasty and illegal headshots that have literally bruised the brains of fellow players and racked up some of the lengthiest suspensions in recent NHL history, and he’s done it without much in the way of contrition or accountability along the way for his actions.
There certainly aren’t many outside of the Washington Capitals fandom that are going to defend Wilson’s punkish actions even if there is a grudging respect around the league for his intimidating, tough style of play that still has a place in the National Hockey League.
Statements from former players like Joffrey Lupul and Hal Gill kind of tell the story there.
I do not have an opinion on the actions of Tom Wilson. Not my job to decide. All I will say is that I would want him on my team. I think every team in the league would say the same. That’s all.
— Hal Gill (@Skillsy75) May 4, 2021
.@JLupul gives a 🔥 take on the Tom Wilson Rangers situation
— Missin Curfew (@MissinCurfew) May 4, 2021
But it’s also gotten to the point where fans, media and just about everybody around the NHL overreacts to everything Wilson does on the ice. It’s a similar phenomenon to Brad Marchand with the Bruins where everything he does is viewed under a critical microscope with an outrage mob looking to boot him out of the league every time, he throws a hit.
Boston Bruins fans are very familiar with Marchand Derangement Syndrome and there’s a similar malady at play with Wilson.
That seems to be the message that NHL is sending by fining Wilson $5,000 for going ballistic on Artemi Panarin and the Rangers a couple of nights ago. Certainly, Wilson isn’t going to win any true hockey courage awards by punching Pavel Buchnevich when he was already face down on the ice or body slamming Panarin before ambling off to the penalty box.
He was picking his spot with Rangers skill guys and there isn’t anything tough about that at all. Far from it, in fact. It was embarrassing watching Wilson flex like Hulk Hogan in the penalty box after tossing a 170-pound winger around on the ice.
But people calling Panarin “defenseless” in the entire affair seem to be willfully ignoring that the Russian winger jumped on Wilson’s back and tried to ride him like a cowboy in the scrum. If Panarin doesn’t want the horns, then he shouldn’t be messing with the Capitals’ biggest and baddest bull.
An anonymous NHL executive said as much in a really interesting piece by Scott Burnside polling hockey types around the league about their thoughts concerning the incident.
“Wilson turned around and didn’t really know who it was because Panarin jumped on his [expletive] back. Like he should have stayed out of it or just sort of grabbed him. Tom Wilson would not have done that to Panarin, I think, if he didn’t jump on his back and there was a whole shitstorm going on. And I’m the last person to defend this guy. I really am.
“To be honest I’m watching it now as we’re talking and I’ll tell you what, it could have been a lot worse. He didn’t even drop his gloves. Yeah, you get caught up in that. Yeah, he [expletive] threw him down. His helmet came off. Panarin should not have jumped on his [expletive] back.
“If you don’t want to get involved in that stuff, that’s your decision. But don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Don’t go at Tom Wilson and expect him to treat you with kid gloves because of who you are. He’s not going to, so don’t go in there.”
The above is pretty much where I stand on this: Wilson deserved to be fined for hitting Buchnevich from behind and it was a cowardly move by the Capitals thug. But the stuff that ensued afterward happens in the NHL from time-to-time and players like Panarin should pair themselves off with other skill guys if they want to avoid trouble.
There’s also the New York Rangers with the ridiculously hyperbolic and overreactive statement of the year decrying Wilson’s “horrifying act of violence” and calling for NHL Department of Player Safety head George Parros to be removed from his position for “dereliction of duty.”
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) May 4, 2021
Nobody else in the league has come anywhere close to that kind of crybaby soup when a DOPS decision didn’t go their way, and it’s a reflection on some of the decision-makers that chose to react that way after the incident coincided with them getting eliminated from postseason contention.
One assumes the borderline ridiculous statement had to do with both factors in what was no doubt an emotional time for the Blueshirts organization.
The bottom line with all of this: There are no winners in this latest Wilson escapade.
The Rangers have lost Panarin for the rest of the year (all four games of it, anyway) and they look like 98-pound weaklings unable to stand up to Wilson. Wilson once again becomes the most hated, polarizing player in the NHL and looks primed to get suspended again once he does something else stupid and dangerous in the playoffs. The Rangers look like the NHL’s version of a Karen heavy-handedly asking to speak to the manager when they didn’t get what they perceived to be justice. And the NHL Player Safety Department look, to casual hockey fans anyway, like they have no control over Wilson’s actions while he runs rampant pillaging and burning across the rest of the league.
This humble hockey writer has no qualm with the $5,000 fine as supplemental discipline for Wilson this time around, but then again us old school hockey Neanderthals seem to be a dying breed in this day and age of safe spaces and outrage police.
Certainly, the on-ice referees look spineless for not opting to bounce Wilson from that game with a misconduct that should have been automatic to retain control of the situation.
Let’s just hope the next time Wilson acts up, and of course there will be a next time, it will be a cut-and-dried situation where the NHL can throw the book at him to finally perhaps knock some sense into the NHL’s Public Enemy No. 1.
Now on to the puck links:
*And we have some breaking news. Clearly there were plenty of people that thought the bush league statement from the New York Rangers just as egregious as Wilson. Both John Davidson and Jeff Gorton have been fired and Chris Drury is poised to take over as GM for the Blueshirts. Wow!
Sources say that #NYR president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton scurried to distance themselves from the team statement that was issued on Tuesday night, telling other executives that they did not know it was in the works until after it was released.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 5, 2021
*Speaking of Tom Wilson, the Athletic managed to track down Matt Cooke to get his take on the situation and even he thinks the Capitals troublemaker was out of line. Boy, if Cooke things you’re a bad apple, then you are truly rotten. (The Athletic)
*Charlie Coyle came up with an injury in Tuesday night’s OT loss to the Devils that put a pall over a happy few days after the B’s clinched a playoff spot. (Boston Hockey Now)
*Interesting discussion about whether or not goaltender Ryan Miller is Hall of Fame-worthy as he readies for retirement. I would say he should be in the Hall of Very Good rather than the HOF, but that’s just one man’s opinion. (Hockey News)
*Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour dropping some knowledge about Star Wars on May 4 is exactly my kind of content.
— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) May 4, 2021
*What is the difference between a reset and a rebuild? Our friends out in San Jose are asking that exact question as they ponder the philosophical debate. (San Jose Hockey Now)
*For something completely different: In honor of May the 4th yesterday, here’s what Variety originally thought about Star Wars over 40 years ago when it first came out. (Variety)