Tom Wilson and the Caps Deserve an Apology

November 17, 2015 | Ed Frankovic

In Elliotte Friedman’s most recent weekly “30 Thoughts” piece, which is widely read because the journalist is respected and typically provides excellent insight as well as “inside’ information, he wrote the following bullet:

  1. The NHL’s Player Safety Department met with several repeat offenders in an attempt to reign them in. One was Zac Rinaldo, who escaped suspension a week earlier for hitting Sean Couturier, much to the department’s chagrin. While in Arizona during camp, Chris Pronger spoke with Steve Downie and John Scott. New Jersey’s Jordin Tootoo was offered the opportunity after being fined for a dangerous trip. Now on the radar? Washington’s Tom Wilson. Several teams have complained about his hits. As of yet, no meeting. But it’s been requested.

To me, the portion on Tom Wilson is unfair on so many levels and is extremely disappointing.

I’ll start with the obvious, who has requested a meeting with Tom Wilson? Has the NHL’s Player Safety Department reached out to the Caps to meet with Tom Wilson? Or have other teams in the league requested that the NHL’s Player Safety Department meet with Wilson and the Caps? This is abundantly clear as mud from the way this thought is written.

Second, who is providing this information? Is this from an internal leak in the NHL’s Player Safety Department? Or did some team let Friedman know that they’ve been complaining to the league about Wilson? Again, not clear at all.

Third, why would you write something like this, which will be read as gospel and therefore a guilty indictment on Wilson and the Caps, without providing the team’s official comment on the matter? Or if he did ask the Caps for comment and they declined, why not state that? That’s totally uncool and “drive by” journalism, in my book.

Fourth, Wilson is 6’ 4”, 215 lbs. and was a 2012 first round draft pick that has never been suspended. Yet he is being lumped in with players who frankly fit in the “thug” category, have reputations as being dirty, and have previously been suspended. It’s downright unfair to put #43 in that bin. It’s damning to Wilson, a player who has one fight this season (his only major, too) and has worked hard to become a strong two way power forward. His hit and steal to set up the Caps fifth goal against the Flyers last Thursday was hard and as clean as a whistle; and those type of plays need to stay in the game.

Fifth, who are these teams that are whining and why? Are they upset that they don’t have a player of his caliber who can skate and hit? Immediately after he was drafted I chatted with two non-Capitals scouts who both said they had Wilson rated high on their list and that he was a great choice. They called the pick a “home run.” Are these other teams trying to gain an advantage against the Caps, who not only have a highly skilled squad, but a very big and physical team that is hard to play against, by complaining? This sure smells like jealousy and trying to gain an advantage with the league and its referees. Are we taking hitting out of the game now?

Sixth, speaking of referees, they read the hockey stories, there is no avoiding them. Whether they want to or not, NHL officials that see this story can’t help but be somewhat influenced by Friedman’s statements. It’s out there and now they’ll be watching him extra closely. To quote comedian Ron White, “It’s profiling, and profiling is wrong!”

This is just a bad way to present this “supposed” issue with the hits by Wilson. He does not have a suspension history. In fact, in a NHL Player Safety Department video in 2013, Brendan Shanahan stated that Willy was making a hockey play on Brayden Schenn and that a major was not the right call by the referees, in that instance. The game misconduct was subsequently rescinded. Bottom line, Wilson does not have a suspension history, yet he’s being lumped unfairly into the dirty player category with no solid basis or examples of why he should be met with or told to change his game.

The way this has been brought to everyone’s attention totally stinks and it’s no wonder why so many in Washington feel that their team continues to face unfair bias from the greater North American hockey media and the NHL itself.

I like Friedman, he has a great track record, and when he writes something, it typically falls in the Dickie Dunn category. “He wrote it, so it must be true!” to quote the great Reg Dunlop.

But this unfair categorization of Wilson is off of the mark and he and the Washington Capitals deserve an apology from the writer, as well as he NHL, if it was indeed NHL personnel leaking this information to Friedman. Having something like this appear in this big of a forum without being sourced clearly and addressed by the Caps is just not kosher.

But hey, everyone makes mistakes, and Friedman does on this one, so hopefully he corrects the wrong.

Finally, this type of unjust commentary has to really upset the Capitals organization, especially General Manager Brian MacLellan and Coach Barry Trotz.

It really stinks and I don’t like it, no I don’t like it, at all.