Playoff season started off with a literal bang, and the questionably-named Department of Player Safety has already got its hands full two days in.
First-year head George Parros has the opportunity to make a statement about protecting players in his first playoffs at the helm. Yet several decisions under Parros’ leadership have been head-scratchers, and his playoff calls are no exception.
Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty was the lucky recipient of the first suspension of the playoff season, sitting for one game after an illegal check to the head on Vegas’ William Carrier. While Carrier left the game with injury, no penalty was called on the play.
In video explanation released by DoPS, the hit warranted a suspension because Doughty made primary contact with the head in a hit where “such contact with the head was avoidable.”
Doughty has been vocal in his disapproval of the decision, using some Not Nice words that I will omit for the sake of the children.
Carrier, who left the game and is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury said in a post-game interview that he thought it was a fast play and Doughty is “not that kind of player.”
Here's the full transcript from William Carrier's first meeting with the media following the hit that got Drew Doughty suspended for Game 2. pic.twitter.com/4hz5FVaGd2— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) April 13, 2018
Columbus’ Josh Anderson was ejected late in the first period after he was whistled for boarding on Michael Kempny. The loss of deadline darling defenseman Kempny certainly is a blow for the Capitals moving forward.
The Capitals got into a jam of their own after Tom Wilson received a charging minor on his hit on Alexander Wennberg early in the third, allowing the Blue Jackets to score on the ensuing powerplay. Wennberg left the game with injury and is currently listed as day-to-day.
Video of Wilson's hit that injured Wennberg (credit to u/seakucumber) pic.twitter.com/yJLQtVyTmT— TheRenderNHL (@TheRenderNHL) April 13, 2018
Per the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, DoPS ruled that neither Anderson nor Wilson’s hits warranted any supplementary discipline.
Despite the ensuing goal, Wilson and the Capitals were lucky enough to get away with just a minor considering Toronto’s Nazem Kadri got slapped with game misconduct and a call from DoPS on a similar hit on Boston’s Tommy Wingels.
Here’s the 2nd dangerous hit on Wingels by Nazem Kadri tonight. Pretty obvious intent. pic.twitter.com/p9XoGS9cIt— StanleyCup ofChowder (@cupofchowdah) April 13, 2018
Kadri was hit with a whopping three-game suspension, which could mean the rest of the series for the Leafs forward. The decision video seems emphasizes intent to deliver the hit as retribution for Wingel’s contact with Mitch Marner, as well as noting that Kadri had time to avoid making the hit and instead left his feet to check Wingels.
So what does this have to do with the Capitals?
Wilson has been suspended twice in his career, both coming in the 2017-18 pre-season. The first was a two preseason game suspension for interference St. Louis’ Robert Thomas (not so Smooth, Tommy). The second was after Wilson boarded St. Louis’ Sam Blais. Wilson was hit with a four regular season-game suspension, forfeiting $97,560.96 in the process.
In his career, Wilson has lost a total of $101,964.63 in forfeited salary and fines. To put this in perspective, that money could pay about a year and a half of my tuition. (Or, like, four years of tuition at a reasonably-priced university.)
Both Wilson and Kadri have a history of run-ins with DoPS, though Wilson is the only one of the two who fits the “Repeat Offender” definition because he has had a previous suspension in the last 18 months.
Yet the Repeat Offender rule is largely a technicality used to determine the level of salary forfeited should there be a suspension, not whether or not there is a suspension.
What, then, decides if there should be a suspension or not?
... In deciding on Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct, the following factors will be taken into account:
(a) The type of conduct involved: conduct in violation of League Playing Rules, and whether the conduct is intentional or reckless, and involves the use of excessive and unnecessary force. Players are responsible for the consequences of their actions.
(b) Injury to the opposing Player(s) involved in the incident.
(c) The status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct. Players who repeatedly violate League Playing Rules will be more severely punished for each new violation.
(d) The situation of the game in which the incident occurred, for example: late in the game, lopsided score, prior events in the game.
(e) Such other factors as may be appropriate in the circumstances.”
With point (c) in mind, one has to wonder why Kadri’s hit warranted an actual hearing while Wilson only got a finger waved in his direction. The main difference between the two, it seems, is intent. But when both plays resulted in an opposing player being injured, does intent really matter?
If Parros wanted the Department of Player Safety to live up to its name, Wilson would’ve at least received a call. Further, if they wanted the Repeat Offender moniker to have actual teeth, it would factor more heavily into whether or not there is a suspension and, moreover, warrant an automatic hearing on questionable hits.
By itself the Kadri suspension seems like a step in the right direction, but taken as a whole with the Doughty one-game suspension and the lack of repercussions for Wilson, it seems as though there is no clear system in place for supplementary discipline. I’m not arguing that Wilson should receive the same suspension as Kadri, per se. Rather, I argue that it is to the benefit of the Department of Player Safety and the league as a whole if there was a modicum of consistency in punishment.
This is especially the case during best of seven series where losing a player from injury or suspension can mean the difference between the cup and hitting the golf course. Right now it seems that Parros is consulting a Magic Eight Ball to do his bidding.