The New York Rangers were eliminated from qualifying for the 2021 playoffs last night but that is not the story everyone is talking about. Once again, we find ourselves talking about Tom Wilson and the reckless and unnecessary decisions he makes on the ice that put others in danger.
“We all saw it,” New York Rangers head coach David Quinn told the media after the Rangers’ loss last night. “There are lines that can’t be crossed in this game. To me, it’s just zero respect for the game in general. You’ve got one of the star players in this league now who could have got seriously, seriously hurt in that incident. It’s just — you saw what happened. It happens time and time again with him. It’s totally unnecessary. You all saw what happened. Like I said, it’s just zero respect for the game, the players, and everyone involved.”
Wilson’s remedy for an already tied-up Pavel Buchnevich making an attempt at a loose puck in the Washington Capitals crease was to help wrestle him down to the ice and then deliver a punch to the back of his head. Buchnevich was defenseless, so Ryan Strome rushed to his aid. From there, a rampage begins that results in an incident that could have led to a catastrophic injury to Artemiy Panarin.
After punching a Ranger in the back of the head and another who was tied up with one of his teammates, Wilson succeeds in knocking Panarin’s helmet off before grabbing him by his hair and slamming him headfirst into the ice. Fortunately for Panarin, it appears that his shoulder breaks the fall. But there’s simply no escaping how dangerous this incident was. This wasn’t a play. This wasn’t hockey. This was Tom Wilson being out of control and showing blatant disregard for the safety of his peers. Again.
“I figure you should have more respect for the game and for the players,” Mika Zibanejad commented after the game. “It’s just horrible. Zero respect. I don’t know why I’m surprised. It’s just horrible.”
At this stage, I’m not sure anyone can be surprised by Wilson’s antics anymore. He’s had two major suspensions since the start of the 2018-19 season and five in his NHL career — not to mention several fines and noteworthy dangerous plays. He’s the definition of a repeat offender.
It’s hard not to get emotional about incidents like this because, in many ways, this is all about emotion. Tempers flared on the ice and a much-reviled player crossed the line (more than once) and did something outrageous. There’s a pattern here. This is just the most recent example of Tom Wilson doing something that has no place in hockey.
Honestly, how many more examples do we need?
We’re still waiting for confirmations on Panarin’s status. Last night, David Quinn commented that he was “OK” but it sounds like that was Quinn saying he wasn’t seriously injured. Elliotte Friedman tweeted last night that he is likely done for the year — the Rangers have three games left on the schedule, including another match against the Capitals on Wednesday.
Hopefully, Panarin managed to avoid a serious injury.
At the moment, the ball is in the NHL Department of Player Safety’s court. There are calls for Wilson to be banned from the league, banned for 20 games, 10 games, for the playoffs, and there are some who think he shouldn’t be banned at all.
As always, we’ll keep you posted if and when there are any developments related to this story.