In a ruling by an independent arbitrator on Monday, Tom Wilson's 20 game suspension for absolutely annihilating St. Louis's Oskar Sundqvist during a preseason game earlier this year. This means that the headhunting was able to resume on Tuesday night and Wilson is able to get back a big chunk of his salary which he had lost with each game missed.
I think that this is an absolute joke and an embarrassment on the league!!!
I was shocked to hear that Wison was being let off easy on this. This guy has developed a reputation for headhunting and over the past year, he has been suspended 3 other times for hits that have been deemed illegal. Wilson has yet to learn his lesson from these previous suspensions and so the whole point of the 20 game suspension was to send a firm message that what he is doing on the ice is NOT ok!.
In case you haven't seen the hit, feel free to watch it below. You can clearly see that Wilson targets a defenseless player and blasts straight through his head with the hit.
These are exactly the types of hits that cause head injuries that could end a career. Tom Wilson is more than just a repeat offender when it comes to hits like this. For Wilson this is habitual. He has now earned the reputation of being one of the dirtiest players in the game and someone who you need to be constantly aware of when he is on the ice. It has become increasingly obvious that he has not learned anything from the previous suspensions and that the potential for him to make a hit like this again is very high.
When he received the 20 game ban for the hit on Sundqvist, I was so glad that the NHL got it right for once. This incident needed to be dealt with in a big way and 20 games sent a very strong message to both Wilson and the league. Targeted hits to the head are not acceptable. Not only would the 20 games be missed but Wilson would also lose a big chunk of salary for those missed games. Unfortunately, the HNL doesn't seem to be able to make punishments stick and Wilson is now getting off with a much lighter sentence. After several appeals which where the suspension was upheld, the issue was taken to a "neutral" arbitrator. After hearing arguments from both sides the arbitrator decided to reduce the suspension from 20 games down to 14. What a joke!!!
Arbitrator Shyam Das decided that the penalty handed down by the department of player safety was too stiff and that Wilson should be able to resume playing immediately. This came less than a week after, now Hall of Fame commissioner, Gary Bettman upheld the suspension given by the league. What message does this send? The punishment fit the crime and sadly Tommy boy won't finish doing the time. If I was the St. Louis Blues or Oskar Sundqvist I would be very disappointed with this decision. These suspensions are designed to send a strong message, especially to repeat offenders like Wilson but if they can be overturned then what is the point? George Parros must be starting to wonder why he even bothers.
At some point, the NHL needs to address the whole idea of taking these appeals all the way to these "neutral" arbitrators. It seems that you can get any decision overturned or altered this way. Interestingly enough, this decision was made by the same arbitrator that reduced Nashville forward Austin Watson’s domestic violence suspension from 27 games to 18. WTF??? Why are these players even allowed to challenge these suspensions? Damn it, if you do the crime then shut up and do the time. This is the kind of stuff that will send the NHL back to a world of vigilante justice and players handing down their own punishments. Just ask Steve Moore and Todd Bertuzzi how well that works.
Sorry to say but after the NHL got this one right, the ability to appeal to the end of the earth gave someone the opportunity to totally screw it up. Shame on Shyam Das for not seeing the severity of the hit and the player that made it. The wrong message is being sent every time this garbage happens and the trickle-down effect could be very bad. I am starting to wonder how "neutral" these arbitrators are when the decisions always seem to go in favour of the players.
What are your thoughts on the reduction in Tom Wilson's suspension? Do you have as much of a problem with it as I do or am I overreacting? I look forward to hearing from you.