Capitals Must Help Tom Wilson Get Rid Of Bad Reputation


Washington Capitals forward Wilson has developed a bad reputation around the NHL for his hard hits. How did it get to this point and how can it be changed?

Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been quite the polarizing player during his NHL career. His hard hits, his childish chirping, and his fights have quickly made the third-year forward one of the most hated players in the NHL. Wilson plays with a lot of intensity. He is a huge guy (6’4″ tall and at least 220 pounds). When he hits someone, it’s going to hurt quite a bit. Wilson’s reputation led to a boiling point in last night’s 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. 

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Tom Wilson delivered a borderline (but legal) hit to Ottawa Senators forward Curtis Lazar. Lazar, Wilson, and Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov are battling for the puck in the Caps defensive zone. Wilson was backchecking him to Holtby’s left side (Lazar’s right) while Orlov was backchecking him to Holtby’s right side (Lazar’s left). Lazar had his head down and swerved to try to avoid Orlov.

At the same time, Wilson was making an attempt to separate Lazar from the puck. Lazar did not see Wilson coming. Wilson initiated hip-to-hip contact on Lazar. Some contact to Lazar’s head occurred, but keep in mind that Wilson is 6’4″ and Lazar is 6’0″ and had his head down. Here’s a video of the incident in question.

Tom Wilson was assessed a match penalty for this act because the refs believed that Wilson deliberately intended to injure Lazar. This is where things get dicey. Humans can’t read minds that I know of. So how can you expect refs to be able to determine intent? Lazar’s head is not the principle point of contact. It’s fairly obvious that Wilson had no intent to injure Lazar.

“I think the main point of contact is hip-on-hip,” Tom Wilson said, via Washington Post. “And he has no clue I’m there, that’s the only reason it looks so bad cause he’s leaning in to make a move that way and I take away his space. I’m standing there, I take away his space and I don’t hit his head at all.”

“It was maybe a little shoulder on shoulder, but I’m a big guy. I’m 220 pounds. If you’re not expecting to run into that, then you’re going to get a little bit of whiplash. It would have been a different story if I’d came in flying and finished right through him. That would have been a lot bigger of a hit, but I’m aware that he can’t see me, I’m aware about all the rules and plays, I’m aware about blindside hits, and I try and just keep my arms at my side, take away his space, track the puck and create a turnover. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

That’s purely a reputation call against Wilson. Far worse is done and does not get called or penalized. A minor penalty for roughing would have been pushing it, but that would be understandable because Wilson’s hit was at best a tad bit unnecessary. Going from roughing to deliberately intending to injure is a drastic jump.

How did Wilson get his bad reputation?

This all began several weeks ago when Elliotte Friedman said that teams had been complaining to the league about Tom Wilson. What’s interesting about that is that Wilson has never been suspended during his career. He’s come close to getting suspended before, but the rest of the players on the Department of Player Safety’s watch list (according to Friedman) were repeat offenders.

This likely stems from when he injured Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky in the playoffs.  It doesn’t matter if Wilson deserves it or not. The fact remains that Wilson has a bad reputation and now he has to deal with it. And it’s starting to cost the Caps.

Related Story: Tom Wilson Must Tone It Down

The Capitals are a bit at fault for this bad reputation of Wilson’s. They have encouraged him to be a physical and aggressive player who serves as an enforcer. This year, he’s been doing a lot less fighting, but he’s still finding his way into the penalty box consistently. Adam Oates, Barry Trotz, and the Caps front office all bear the blame for this. They have completely mishandled Tom Wilson and are potentially ruining his career because of it.

How does Tom Wilson shake off his bad reputation?

Tom Wilson has to get away for a while in order to shake his bad reputation. Is it fair? No. But the Caps are going for a Stanley Cup. They can’t afford to have Tom Wilson out there every night if he’s potentially going to get unfair calls against him consistently. It’s sad, but that’s the reality. The Capitals have an easy solution. Tom Wilson can adjust his game with the help of the Caps.

Next: Capitals Beat Senators 2-1

Tom Wilson’s bad reputation is not deserved at all. But it’s beginning to hurt the Caps. Whatever GM Brian MacLellan decides to do, he must act swiftly because there are many things at stake.