Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Caps approve of Wilson's hit

Shortly after 9 o’clock last night, an email circulated through the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to Brendan Shanahan, Brian Leetch, Stephane Quintal and a few other members of the group.

Caps approve of Wilson's hit

Shortly after 9 o’clock last night, an email circulated through the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to Brendan Shanahan, Brian Leetch, Stephane Quintal and a few other members of the group.

The message included a video clip of Tom Wilson’s dangerous charge on Brayden Schenn, which occurred with 4:43 left in the second period.

It also included the facts that Schenn suffered an upper-body injury on the play, that the 19-year-old Wilson does not have a disciplinary history with the NHL and doesn’t play again until Friday night in Carolina.

Give or take, there are 55,000 hits in the NHL each season. Approximately 800 such plays warrant a serious review from Shanahan’s unit, though every play is viewed by a member of the department.

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If you want to get a unique glimpse inside the suspension review process, read this enlightening story from the Boston Globe last week.

“It’s like going to the airport and watching safe landings,” Shanahan told the Globe. “Nobody watches when the planes land - it’s always when something bad happens.”

Well, something bad did happen on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center when Wilson launched Schenn into the boards face-first at full speed. Schenn left the game after the hit and did not return, he will be re-evaluated on Wednesday by team doctors.

It’s been an incredibly busy week for his department. There have been 8 suspensions since Dec. 9 alone, totaling a whopping 33 games. Schenn himself was fined in the process, the maximum $2,230.77 for a cross-check last Wednesday against the Blackhawks.

So far this season, there have been 19 suspensions in the regular season (83 games) and 6 more suspensions in the preseason. Wilson’s hit wasn’t even the only controversial one among 12 NHL games on Tuesday night, with Kyle Quincey driving Ryan Getzlaf into the boards face-first.

But what will Shanahan decide with Wilson’s hit on Schenn?

If it were up to the Capitals, Wilson would not receive any sort of supplementary discipline. Capitals GM George McPhee called it a “great hit” and said Schenn was “too slow” to get out of the way.

“I thought it was a clean hit,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “I really do. I watched it life. I watched it on the jumbotron. I watched it again between periods. Schenn saw him at the last second. He’s a big, strong guy. He hit him hard, yeah. To me, it’s a clean hit. I don’t think it’s a penalty at all.”

Alex Ovechkin said Schenn “saw him coming” and “when you get hit, you have to be ready.” 

Therein lies the biggest question with the Schenn hit. Did Schenn see him coming? Where does the onus lie - on Schenn to not turn his body and accept the blow head-on, or on Wilson to slow himself down once Schenn turned?

Nick Grossmann, who watched the hit from a couple feet away, said post-game that Schenn never saw Wilson coming. Schenn’s older brother, Luke, echoed those sentiments.

“It’s a tough, reckless play, a hit from behind,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said.

Judging by the video, it is tough to tell whether or not Schenn does indeed sense Wilson is closing in on him. If you pause the video (below) just before the point of impact, Schenn does appear to look in Wilson’s direction briefly before turning course toward the board to protect himself and the puck.

Clearly, Wilson never slowed down, coming in with speed and continuing through Schenn - who was vulnerable at such a distance from the boards and unable to defend himself. 

To me, that spells a two or three game suspension, based on the NHL’s history dealing with similar hits. But it is a little strange to see the Capitals staunchly defend the hit, which doesn’t always happen in this judicial process.

If Shanahan does indeed determine Schenn saw Wilson coming, it may end up mitigating Wilson’s punishment.

Stay tuned. We might hear first from Shanahan about Quincey’s hit on Getzlaf while he deliberates on Wilson’s hit, since the Red Wings play tomorrow night against Calgary.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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Frank Seravalli Daily News Sports Columnist
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