There has been mixed reactions and much debate over the legality of Tom Wilson’s hit on forward Brayden Schenn during Tuesday's Flyers-Capitals game.
My colleague Tim Panaccio believes a suspension was warranted (see story).
However, there are underlying reasons why Capitals forward Wilson avoided suspension.
Wilson can’t be completely at fault for the resulting injury to Schenn. Just moments before impact, Schenn caught Wilson in the corner of his eye and turned his back ever so slightly to avoid shoulder-to-shoulder contact.
Some within the Flyers' organization even suggested that Schenn contributed to his injury by turning his back and head, which resulted in his nasty collision with the boards.
Also, even though Wilson came charging hard off the bench and was skating at top speed when he leveled Schenn, Wilson’s intent from the time he left the bench wasn’t to lay out the Flyer. Director of player safety Brendan Shanahan illustrated this point perfectly from a camera angle that shows Wilson’s position on the ice (at the top of the circle, not the blue line) when Schenn gained possession of the puck (see video).
When Wilson took his shift he was initiating a strong forecheck, not headhunting.
Finally, I believe the NHL considered Schenn’s health as the decision was handed down after he had been cleared to play against Columbus, implying the hit didn’t have devastating results.
If Schenn had been hospitalized, would the NHL make the same ruling?
I don’t necessarily agree with this position, as dirty plays should always be followed with supplemental discipline regardless of the outcome of the play.
Wilson received the proper punishment: A five-minute major for charging, a game misconduct, which ultimately cost the Capitals the game. In this case, the NHL got it right.