Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson is a man on a mission. With a brand new six year, $31 million contract in his back pocket and a Stanley Cup ring on his finger, Wilson shouldn’t have much to prove to the hockey world… yet he does. He wants to silence the critics.
Detractors of Wilson’s game say that he’s nothing more than a goon, that he’s a dangerous player and ultimately that his style of play is bad for the game. Wilson, of course, was suspended three playoff games during the Capitals’ run up to their historic Stanley Cup championship for a brutal head shot that knocked Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese out cold, fracturing his jaw and leaving him with a concussion.
Check it out:
He somehow escaped punishment from NHL Department of Player Safety (DOPS) for a similar hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Alex Wennberg earlier in the post season, as well. Remember this?
There’s also his hit on Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, which ultimately was reviewed and dismissed by DOPS, as well.
Suffice it to say… Wilson’s got a bit of a history. His suspension for the Aston Reese hit was the third suspension of Wilson’s short career and it’s expected that he’ll have a rather short leash for such antics in 2018-19 and beyond. Because of this, Dharen Mahiban of the Sporting News reports that Wilson is taking steps to work with DOPS rather than against it, just to keep himself on the ice.
Check out some of these insights from Wilson, courtesy of Mahiban’s reporting:
“I don’t want to be in the stands. My team doesn’t want me in the stands,” Wilson said Tuesday while training in his hometown of Toronto, Ontario. “I’ve got to make sure I’m on the ice, not in the box, playing as much as I can. The game is definitely moving in a direction. … I’ve got to be the unique player, which is why they gave me that contract, but I can’t cross the line where I’m spending time in the box or in the stands.”
“There were a couple instances where they [DOPS] reached out and it’s good for me to know what they’re seeing from my game,” Wilson said. “It’s good for them to know what I’m seeing when I’m on the ice. It can be a beneficial factor for both parties to learn from each other.”
“I want to be on the ice so I need to know what they’re looking for and I need to know what’s in the rules and what’s not,” Wilson continued. “It’s something that I’m trying to work with. You’ve just got to make sure you’re finishing every check clean, playing within the rules. It’s a hard-hitting, fast sport, stuff’s going to happen, but you’ve got to be in control and make sure you’re doing the right thing.”
Can a tiger ever really change his stripes? Never say never… looking back earlier in his career, who could have ever thought that Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand would be amongst the top scorers in the NHL? The problem with that comparison of course is that most would argue Marchand hasn’t changed at all… his offensive skill has merely caught up to his elite level antics. Something tells me Caps fans would settle for a similar path for Wilson. So, can a tiger change his stripes? No, but he can distract you with those stripes while he simultaneously rules the jungle.