Was Tom Wilson's three-game suspension too low, too high or just right?
Greg Wyshynski, senior writer: Too high. First, let's agree that the main point of contact was the head of Zach Aston-Reese. It wasn't shoulder-to-shoulder, as many of us thought on the first batch of replays. Tom Wilson went high, clipped the Penguins player's jaw and broke it, while also concussing him.
But the reason we had to parse out these replays and review the hit several dozen times is because it was a bang-bang, full-velocity play. Call it a hit gone wrong. Call it Wilson crossing that line he dances on. Call it what you will, but don't call it on par with what Nazem Kadri did in Round 1.
Kadri reacted to a definitive Boston Bruins goal by intentionally running Tommy Wingels for the second time in that period. It was a petulant, calculated attempt to injure an opponent. And that earned him the same duration of suspension as Wilson. Yes, Wilson has history, with two suspensions in the preseason. But the idea that a borderline illegal check warrants Wilson missing three second-round playoff games -- in light of how the department of player safety treated a play in a different stratosphere when it came to intent to injure -- is hard to swallow. Based on that, two games would have sufficed here.
While we agree that it's a hit that deserved a suspension of some sort, and that Wilson's previous suspensions mandated that it'd be for multiple games, three is too many.
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: I texted a veteran NHL player to ask his opinion of the suspension. I was curious how peers viewed the situation.
"A few thoughts," the player told me. He said it "sucks" Zach Aston-Reese got injured, but a hockey play gone wrong "unfortunately happens. It's a physical game." The player also said Wilson "didn't get the benefit of the doubt because [he has a] reputation." And lastly: "honestly, it felt like the league came down hard [because] everyone is paying attention."
If that seems like a lot to unpack, well it is. Unless the NHL adopts something similar to IIHF rules -- where "whether accidental or intentional, every direct hit to the head or neck of an opponent will be penalized" -- this gray area will always exist.
I agree with the player; it felt like the NHL dropped the hammer because of a) Wilson's history and b) the fact that it's the playoffs. There are simply more eyeballs on the sport at this time of year. Inherently, the department of player safety's job is to ensure the well-being of all players. They can't let this one pass. That Aston-Reese was so brutally injured compounds the issue.
I don't think Wilson's intent was to hit Aston-Reese's head, but he did not make an attempt to avoid it. I do believe Wilson deserved to be suspended, because at least one of the angles showed Wilson's direct point of contact was Aston-Reese's head.
I think three games is harsh, and it's purposely harsh to send a statement that the league is taking health seriously. I don't think this gray area is clearing up anytime soon, at least as the current rules are constituted.
Chris Peters, hockey prospects writer: This had to be one of the more challenging hits to judge for the department of player safety, but I appreciated the detail with which their decision was explained. The fact that Wilson is who he is should theoretically make it easier to make a decision -- especially as a repeat offender, which is a more official designation than simply going off of reputation. The other factors of this being a contentious playoff series, an established rivalry and Wilson actually playing a somewhat important role for his team all play a role, too.
Initially, I thought this was too high of a suspension. Trying to block out Wilson's reputation and judging the hit on its own, it looked like to me it was a solid hit gone wrong. In fact, it was former NHLer Daniel Carcillo's Twitter thread that started to change my mind. He broke the hit down as a player who has delivered the kind of hits Wilson often gets in trouble for. It was rather enlightening and thorough.
After the DOPS explanation came out, it only solidified for me that it was much closer to just right. Based on everything, including Wilson's repeat offender status and the injury to Aston-Reese, a multigame suspension was warranted.
Sachin Chandan, ESPN The Magazine researcher: Statistically, this suspension was just right. Analyzing the past 10 years of on-ice suspension data from Pro Sports Transactions, there is generally a 0.74 exchange rate between regular season and playoff suspensions for similar infractions. Over those 10 years, suspensions for head shots (by players not named Raffi Torres), averaged 3.9 games in the regular season, meaning an offense in the playoffs should be worth approximately three.
Additionally, Wilson is a repeat offender, which is why he got more games for this hit than Claude Giroux's one-game suspension in the 2012 second round for a similar shoulder-to-head hit. His loss is a big deal to the Capitals, as he's logged 119 minutes on the top line this postseason, most of that coming when the Capitals are protecting a lead, and contributing to a 57.0 Corsi for percentage for his line.