Crowdsourcing an Opinion on the Tom Wilson Hit

tom by ian

Everyone’s got an opinion about Tom Wilson‘s hit on Brayden Schenn. While some might quote that old aphorism about how everyone has an opinion and a certain private part, I think it’s good to understand the variety of perspectives out there. By hearing each other out, we can learn and synthesize and think critically and become more tolerant of people with whom we don’t agree.

And then, maybe, we can all stop sending mean tweets to @russianmachine.

Let’s start with Justin Bourne, who has actually played pro hockey, so listen up.

The charge is important. The mechanics of the hit (shoulder-to-shoulder, victim in vulnerable position) matter, but maybe not so much as the distance traveled by Wilson before making it– and the speed with which he did it.

Good context from the Gormster. The Caps’ third D-pairing was getting beat down in their own zone for 1:45 before the hit. Wilson jumped on the ice just five seconds before hitting Schenn. That’s just long enough to get some speed and maim someone.

Here’s another important piece if you’re willing to entertain it. Wilson is a rookie playing NHL hockey, but just barely. He rarely gets more than seven minutes of ice and has contributed very little to the team in the last month. The team announced Wilson will not participate in the World Juniors tournament, and they don’t seem to be willing to re-assign him to Plymouth (though they certainly could). He’s just not playing a lot of hockey, and he may not like it. Does his standing on the team matter to us as we suss out our feelings on the hit?

In addition to different team allegiances, we also have a strong stylistic disagreement with Broad Street Hockey. The substance, however…

Unhelpful. Unless you’re trying to inflame, it’s a lot better to characterize a person’s actions rather than the person himself. What They Did > Who They Are. That goes for the “killshot” word choice as well. Unless you’re Skip Bayless.

Exactly. While it’s relevant and important that Schenn put himself in a vulnerable position, the distance and speed of Wilson’s charge is more damning than what happened upon impact. Wilson’s entire shift was a straight line skating full speed into Schenn.

Here’s the other perspective. I don’t know if Schenn saw Wilson (NBC says no, everyone commenting and tweeting mean things at us say yes), but he definitely turned, and his turn definitely contributed to the injury. Whether or not that turning absolves Wilson of responsibility is a question for Mr. Shanahan.

Okay, that’s creepy. Hope they played MegaMillions.

We said the same thing after the Lightning game: “If there’s a code, it’s best enforced on the scoreboard.”

And here’s the broader problem. Despite their best efforts to be transparent, the NHL and the Department of Player Safety are still mysterious. The events that the audience finds so egregious (i.e. Emery mugging Holtby, James Neal kneeing Marchand in the head) often get little punishment– or none. The league hasn’t calibrated its rulebook to the sensibilities of its viewers. There will continue to be mismatches and outrage until that changes. (Okay, there will be outrage even after that changes.)

Back to Bourne, who has actual insight into the interpersonal considerations of players on the ice. Could Wilson still have executed this same hit without putting his opponent in danger? Is there a safe way to do this?

Harrison certainly thinks so. I don’t know enough to say. This will be a big part of DOPS’s thought process as they decide how to dole out punishment.

This, sadly, did not happen. We did give an honorary third star of the game to Philipp Grubauer though. Homer actually raises a really clever point. The whole Emery-Holtby fight assault and battery didn’t merit punishment according to the league. If Wilson gets suspended, while he may deserve it, it will underline the arbitrary nature of the discipline system. Both what Emery did and what Wilson did were bad– probably to a similar extent– yet only one matters enough to punish. That stinks.

To me, the important takeaway from all this noise is that there’s no simple answer. We can wave our hands and declare “this was a clean hit” in stark, black-and-white terms, but that’s facile. We can say Wilson’s a dirty idiot and doesn’t belong in the NHL, but that’s the other side of the same dumb coin. The only viable path is down the middle– understanding and weighing and adopting the thoughts of others on their merit. Hockey, like the real world, is a complicated place that resists simple answers. The more we talk, and the more we listen, the more we’ll appreciate both.

Now please stop saying mean things to us on Twitter.

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  • themav80

    My take on it: The Tom Wilson hit is the kind of violence hockey is trying to get away from! The league needs to stamp down on this kind of thuggish behavior before people get hurt!

    Which is why we need to make sure Grossman can skate straight over to Wilson and start punching him the face with no repercussions.

  • Guest

    “the kind of violence hockey is trying to get away from” ….so what’s ray emery? should holtby be able to skate right over and punch him in the face “without repercussions”???

    oates said it best–this probably shouldn’t have even been a penalty.

  • themav80

    Uh what?

  • Yakupov

    nailed it

  • Barrett

    Was that a spider monkey in an Elvis costume assaulting two individuals?

  • BJ Robey

    I’m sticking with, yes for Charging (without question) and maybe 1-2 games suspension (leaning towards 1).

    Skating in that long for a hit and dumb, and deserves a penalty. But other than the speed, the hit was “clean”. Shoulder to shoulder, feet stayed down. The injury came from Schenn seeing the hit coming, and trying to turn away.

    Arguing hypothetical injuries he may have received from the hit isn’t what DoPS should be doing, because players are still using sharp metal blades on their skates. Their concern should be what did happen, and not what could have, and in a clearly defined manner.

    I’m also not remotely surprised that NBCSports didn’t like something someone wearing a Caps jersey did.

  • Bravo, Peter.

  • BJ Robey

    Bollywood ’tis a silly place.

  • Dave

    More context (but not to excuse a reckless play): during the 2nd period, the NBC Sports game crew were reporting that some Caps were upset with Schenn’s hits earlier in the period. Oleksy and Beagle apparently were exchanging words with Schenn (discussed with about 8:30 left in the 2nd period). That may be why Wilson was so locked in on him, specifically.

  • Catherine__M

    I’m too tired to say anything other than “for real”. Yet another example of why this blog is the best. All of you, individually and togehter.

  • 🙂

  • Shaun Phillips

    Look at the source. Milbury (nearly) single-handedly ran the Islanders into the ground and JR has always been a hot-head who runs his mouth off with no brains to back it up.

  • VeggieTart

    I love Wilson, but dude, you can’t do that.

  • riggorules

    Too much emphasis gets placed on the player’s injury in these situations. A lot of the vitriol directed at Wilson is a result of Schenn being clearly hurt, imo. If he falls at a different angle, or turns a split-second later, he could very well skate away from the hit and then it’s just a debatable charging call. Maybe we hear the likes of Milbury praising Wilson for bringing “toughness.”

    Honestly, Schenn had the puck facing Wilson, the head wasn’t targeted, he didn’t leave his feet … can’t see how this is deemed “disgusting.”

  • Graham Dumas

    Isn’t the issue also one of how out of control Wilson seemed going into, and leaving, the hit? I feel like if he hadn’t bee carrying too much speed into the hit, he wouldn’t have ended up sprawled on the ice behind the goal afterwards.

  • Darla Doxstater

    Wilson gets busted by the Shanaban because he’s a Cap. And ONLY because he’s a Cap. As someone else said elsewhere last night, if there were an Antarctic bird on Wilson’s sweater, it would have been incidental contact.

  • Graham Dumas

    Isn’t the issue also one of Wilson’s control going into the hit? He seems kinda like that nightmare truck in the video for Enter Sandman: total destruction.

    Compare that to Ovi’s monster hit on Jagr in the Olympics (one of my all time favorites). Ovi’s carrying a lot of speed, destroys Jagr, but stays on his feet and participates in the play afterwards.

    Wilson just ends up sprawling on the ice. Part of that is due to Schenn having moved his center of mass away from the hit, throwing Wilson off balance, but still, I feel that much of the call is due to Wilson being pretty reckless going into the hit.

  • riggorules

    Maybe, but then are we just saying hockey players shouldn’t hit other hockey players “too hard?” However fast Wilson was going, he does initiate contact with Schenn’s shoulder. Dunno, I can buy the charging major penalty perhaps, but not seeing how this deserves outrage by any stretch.

  • Graham Dumas

    No, and I don’t think that’s what I was implying, either. Hit as hard as you like, just maintain control over yourself while doing so. That’s part of the reasoning behind the rules against leaving your feet, etc. you’re an athlete, not a … Wrecking ball (sorry).

  • Graham Dumas

    Err, abortive post attempt, sorry! Stupid ipad.

  • It was a good hockey play. Screw the flyers, they get what they deserve.

  • Max Duchaine

    Trying to predict supplemental discipline in the NHL is like trying to predict the weather. You can only really know what’s going to happen after it happens. So I’d rather examine the cause instead of the effect, something that I’m sure the NHL is going to do when ruling on this. But probably not. They’ll see the injury and rule from there.

    As was stated prior, Wilson had just gotten onto the ice. The play was in the defensive zone, a long way from the Caps’ bench. Kid had fresh legs and a long distance to travel. You mean to tell me that a professional hockey player, knowing full well that his defensemen were in some trouble, is not going to skate his ass off to get to the play and try to help out? I’m taking a different angle with this, that Wilson did not skate in a direct line to Schenn, but skated in a direct line to the play. Schenn emerged with the puck and the rest was history. Peter made a great point about how hungry he had to be to see the ice at that very moment in time, and I think that’s where this came from. Just a kid trying to make something happen.

    Could Willy-Baby have let up? Definitely, and that is probably where any supplemental discipline is going to come from. Should he have? I don’t think so, considering how the play was unfolding in the corner. But that depends on who you ask and whether or not you’re considering what was happening before the hit, the immediate impact of the hit, or both. Had Schenn not turned, would we still be talking about this? Who knows. That’s for the Shanahammer to decide.

  • Max Duchaine

    And I absolutely cannot wait for another one of these.

  • Guest
  • Mark Chaffer
  • old man

    Just a thought, nothing should be done to Wilson, maybe the powers to be Will just let this balance the horrible incident from Nov. 1st. Just to bad it was not Emery on the receiving end of the hit. We should not have gotten into playing that shot hockey they play in Philly.

  • Mike Reppenhagen

    I know there’s a few DC football fans around these parts, so I’ll make a comparison I think is apt here. When I saw that Wilson hit, the first thing I thought of was the way Brandon Meriweather has played this year. He saw an opportunity to lay a devastating, highlight reel hit and didn’t think about what actually mattered in the moment. Instead of realizing just how much speed and power he was going to hit with, Wilson “exploded” into the hit, which is terrifying considering the fact that it’s a blindside hit (Schenn may have saw him, but the body is still not prepared to couch any sort of hit and that’s not at all his fault. It seems like people may be accusing Schenn of selling out into the hit, which is ridiculous to me) and Schenn is dangerously close to the boards. Wilson came flying off of the bench desperate to make an impact and leveled a guy in a really dirty way. I think he deserves at least three games and I wouldn’t be surprised or upset to see him get five. Nip this in the bud and lets focus on what this guy can do with the puck and instead of what his body and hands can do (I’m looking at you, Oatesy. “Not a penalty”)

  • Jon A

    Why is ALL the emphasis and responsibility put on the player controlling himself when he is the hitter and little or none put on the player getting hit? It seems that Schenn saw TW coming and turned away to face the boards. Had he not done that and tried to take the hit, he would have most likely just been knocked into the boards on his feet. It almost seems to me that a lot of players now intentionally try to turn into the boards in situations like this to draw a penalty. Which, if this was the case, worked but also got him injured. And injury’s going to be the result when making your self vulnerable while getting hit by some one with twenty pounds on you… Just a thought on what I perceive as a growing trend in the NHL.

  • C Breezy

    No one is talking about where the puck was. Most of the time that puck is going to continue around the boards and Tom Wilson has to continue with speed chasing it around the net right? It was like the perfect storm, Wilson trying to get into the play, the puck stops right at Schenn, who turns at the last instant, and that is what happens. It is a train wreck of a hockey play.

    That being said if you read the rule for charging, Wilson is certainly guilty of it. Then again so are many other checks that don’t get called on a nightly basis. I agree with the author that this falls into the strange gray area as far as punishment goes that has been developed by the seemingly ambiguous decisions of Brendan Shanahan et al.

  • Pretzalcoatl

    What Emery did and what Wilson did were not bad to a similar extent: Wilson was a “hockey play”; Emery wasn’t. If anything, what Emery did looks most like what Thorton did that got him 15 games (assault after play stops on unwitting/unwilling opponent)

  • Andrew Walker

    Putting my apologist hat on for a second, I think that your explanation is the only one that doesn’t involve this play being completely reckless and irresponsible. If Wilson is streaking in there to get in on the play along the rear boards and, instead Schenn stops the puck’s progress and handles it a little bit, I can see Wilson thinking at the last moment “okay, this is going to be a hit now” without regard for his speed.

    That doesn’t forgive it, but it does at least leave room for Wilson not just screaming off of the bench to cream someone.

  • Lawrence

    I think everything is getting a little bit blown out of proportion and hopefully people stop throwing insults at you guys.

    My take on the hit: so many people these days decide if a hit was dirty or clean by the result of the injury, which is not a good formula for success. So many people don’t understand what a clean or dirty hit is anymore and they have no idea if its going to be deemed suspension worthy (frankly neither do I). IMO Wilson’s penalty should of been called 2 mins for charging, not 5. If Schenn had braced himself, face first, he would have fell down, but I doubt he goes flying into the boards like he did, and Wilson would have only gotten a 2 min penalty at max.

    Hockey is a rough sport, Wilson is a big guy, shit happens sometimes. At this rate, we are questioning every single hit, we might as well say the only time you can be physical is if your not skating above 2 mph.

  • I think the *popular* outrage is pretty similar, but you’re right– I think what Emery did was worse.

  • JPA

    “He’s just not playing a lot of hockey, and he may not like it.”

    He’s going to be playing a bunch less after last night.

    If I were NINETEEN YEAR OLD Tom Wilson, I would be thrilled with five minutes a night at the NHL level over 20 minutes a night a the OHL level.

  • JH

    Someone explain to me what Wilson is supposed to do in that situation. He’s on the ice on a line change, sees a guy with the puck in the corner. Isn’t he supposed to put his body on him and move him off the puck? The result is very unfortunate, but I’m not sure what else he’s supposed to do in that situation. He didn’t leave his skates; he didn’t go for the head. Again, watching the video is sickening, so I’m not defending the result, but I haven’t seen an explanation of what a hockey player should do in Wilson’s shoes that would have mitigated the outcome. Seems to me as long as we’re in a contact league, bad things will happen at times. We can lessen them but we can’t eliminate all risk unless you want to make the NHL beer-league no-checking.

    (Since the conversation is here, this is a repost of a comment I made on the original gif of the hit)

  • JH

    PPS: I’m so glad that our rivalry / hatred of the Flyers has been renewed. It’s like the good old Patrick Division days.

  • themav80

    That’s my problem with the Charging penalty in general. It’s a subjective feeling on the part of the officials that the hit was too hard/fast.

  • themav80

    What Tom Wilson does with his body checks is an important part of his game. Just like it is for Ovi.

    Though I agree with the fact that I could stand to see him fight less.

  • Jack Conness

    I hate NBCSports. They hate on Ovi and the Caps more than anyone else.

  • Mark Chaffer

    I don’t know why this posted as guest. this is my comment..

  • Red

    The call was fair. That type of hit always gets called differently depending on ref’s POV. What I don’t understand is why there wasn’t an offsetting instigator penalty which would’ve reduced the PP to 3mins.

  • Bugs Fire

    Hits in hockey appear to serve two purposes. Firstly, and imho primarily, it is to advance the play by bumping the opponent off the puck causing turnover, preventing him from going up the ice with it, or forcing a bad passing decision.

    Secondly (and that is the part I don’t like that much), hitting is used to intimidate your opponent. This usually means that hits are delivered with excessive force. We all know too well from observing Mike Green what happens when a player is always concerned about getting hit into the next concussion.

    While excessive force hits are legal, they are more likely to cause injury.

    From this point of view, Wilson’s hit was obviously unnecessarily hard. But it needs to be put into context. Assuming we all watched the same game, I can’t help but notice that for quite some time prior to the incident Flyers were charging every Caps player with the puck, often continuing with a hard check even after the puck was gone. They may want to call it “toghness”, but Flyers play intimidation game, that is major component of their game plan. It is very likely that Wilson (and other Caps) was simply trying to respond to that in kind. And yes, hitting with excessive force almost inevitably leads to injury.

    It’s very unfortunate what happened to Schenn. But it is important that Berube and other coaches who decide to make intimidation part of their strategy tell their players to always expect a reciprocating hard hit when their team decides to turn up the heat for few minutes.

    There is no way to sugarcoat it – clean or not, Wilson’s hit was not a good decision and cost his team two points. If you watch Ovechkin closer, you’ll see that he often deliberately slows down or avoids hitting completely when the target either gets rid of the puck or is dangerously close to the boards. He was suspended in the past and learned how to do his job right. Wilson will too, hopefully.

  • Graham Dumas

    What Emery did was way worse. He skated the entire length of the ice for the singular purpose of getting in a fight; he didn’t go away when Holtby said he didn’t want to fight; and then he continued to hit Holtby in the back of the head once the latter was down. Emery was in full control of himself and his actions during the entire time.

    Wilson skated a long distance (apparently–I didn’t see the game and the clips I’ve seen don’t reveal much) too. But the goal of his actions was, at least arguably, a legal hockey play, rather than a fist-fight. TW, I think, lost control of himself at some point and became a passenger on his own runaway 10-train.

  • Bugs Fire

    Latest news is Wilson is getting phone hearing, which means <5 games. I hope for some consistency as I am still trying to figure out why Thornton gets 15 games (asked for a fight, refused, attacked anyway, kept punching defenseless opponent) and Emery gets nothing (asked for a fight, refused, attacked anyway, kept punching defenseless opponent). If anything, Thornton's justification makes some sense (Orpik hit Eriksson causing concussion) while Emery's was what? Motivating your team by doing what would outside the rink put him in jail?

    The main reason for DoPS reduced efficiency in preventing injuries is exactly because the injury and its severity factors into their decisions. What Thornton did happens all the time but usually does not result in concussion. If Orpik was fine, does anyone seriously think Thornton would even get suspended? If you want to prevent injuries, there should be discipline for every dangerous hit with clear definition of it. One game suspension every time a hit is delivered towards the boards within 3-6 feet from them, no injury required. Problem solved. This way Wilson does not need to decide within a millisecond time whether he is going too fast.

  • Bugs Fire

    I agree he is allowed to check Schenn. But what he is supposed to do is to evaluate the danger and slow down. Half the force he used would be sufficient to move Schenn off the puck without getting charging penalty. He’ll learn in due course to adjust.

  • Mike Reppenhagen

    I misspoke a bit by saying I don’t want to see what his “body” can do. I agree that his size is a huge part of the game, and I’d like to see him use it way more in front of the net than to torpedo into defenseless players.

  • TheOnlyTrueCapsFan

    Finally we have a team that will fight, I love it. You need toughness to win a cup. Yes the ’09-’10 caps were excellent (president trophy winners) but there was no toughness there, as demonstrated by Semin’s slap boxing match vs Stall. Cuteness and fancy play doesn’t win cups (reference all the Cap’s past playoff appearances this decade) it’s hard work, grit and determination. We still aren’t built to win a cup, and we never will be so long as we keep clinging to the hope that mike green will stop focusing on gelling his hair and his pathetic MMA-esque t-shirt fashion company and start focusing on not being such a puss in our own end, but we’re moving in the right direction. As for Wilson’s hit, yeah he came in fast and it definitely would be a charging regardless, but Schenn made it 100x worse by turning away from it at the last second… And even so, Wilson still hit him right in the arm, not directly in the back as every perrenial anti-Washington talking head (I’m looking directly at you Milbury) loves so much to harp on. *drop the mike*

  • Peter Hassett

    42.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by charging.

    If you think he deliberately injured Schenn, you’re wrong.

  • johnnymorte

    Can we send Willy to Malmo if he gets Shanabanned? I think it’s the right thing to do. This kid needs minutes and he can get them there. Yet another blunder by GMGM. If he had sent him there this would have never happened. He’s 18, let him be a kid and represent his country.

  • Eddie

    Fair call, bad move, and ultimately took the momentum away for the rest of the game. To quote my friend Miguel, “it had been a pretty fair game between the two to that point,” and that was just not a good thing to do on Wilson’s part. I won’t mind a suspension, but if none comes, I won’t mind that, either.