NHL Player Safety fails again, and the Minnesota Wild are trending down

Marc Elliott

The Devils Brett Seney stunned by reckless hit from Caps Tom Wilson
The Devils Brett Seney stunned by reckless hit from Caps Tom Wilson

ST. PAUL… It must be the least desirable job in the entire National Hockey League. On the other hand, it just might be one of the most important ones of all. Your popularity could go up and down like a department store elevator on a daily basis, and the chances that you’ll ever get some personal praise, kudos or congrats are somewhat slim. But current Head of Player Safety and former NHL tough guy George Parros knew that when he signed on. And you can only imagine that some game nights are as boring as watching paint dry while others are as nail biting as being in an actual game. There are some games each game night whereby the players go out and work, and put on a “smooth” game, free of contentious behavior, and then other nights, you can just see the fuse burning away and it’s just a matter of time until something really stupid might occur and then Parros and crew are required to jump into action. 

They watch and review every second of every game from the start of the preseason until the Stanley Cup gets lifted overhead. In between there are a lot of things that occur in the heat of a game that will require that they employ their watchful eyes to see if there is a player that has gone off the rails or is about to. Many times, these aren’t easy calls. Sometimes yes, but some instances just aren’t that black and white. And in the case of some players who have played with an “edge” throughout their careers, they may become offenders, and then repeat offenders. One such player is the Washington Capitals Tom Wilson. The DoPS is pretty familiar with him. I must note here that the original intent of the DoPS was to protect the players from egregious and injurious actions during games and they would accomplish that by influencing in-game behaviors through education and review as to what was acceptable play and what wasn’t. 

There was some trial and error, but most of the players have learned and adapted. Then there are a handful that haven’t. Place Wilson on this list. In fact, if I were to make a top five all-time list of suspended players that just never seemed to “get it”, he’d be on there. No contest. Add him, Matt Cooke, Brad Marchand, Rafi Torres and while there is stiff competition for the five spot, throw Chris Simon on there. He’s more then worthy. The dilemma that Wilson has presented to the DoPS is that of a player who has recently came off a lengthy suspension (20 games reduced to 14) and then committed a borderline infraction shortly thereafter. Last Friday he received a Match Penalty versus the NJ Devils for an unnecessary hit on an unsuspecting Brett Seney. He was hit from behind with force, never saw it coming, and was not in possession of the puck. I will note here, (begrudgingly) that this wasn’t a head shot, but the optics were bad. The hit did not need to be made. As always, Wilson made it anyway. 

He was ejected from the game. DoPS reviewed this and decided not to issue any fine or suspension. This was a surprise, but then again, no. They established some precedence when they decided not to re-suspend Marchand last year for his dirty hit on then Blackhawk Anthony Duclair. He had just served a multigame suspension before putting The Duke on the shelf with this dirty play as well as being fined twice. The DoPS seems to have some teeth and thus “bite” at times, then when they could really make a statement to the Wilsons and Marchand’s of the world, they take their teeth out and let the moment pass. Is it a reluctance to further decimate a player’s earnings for a season that they don’t act when it’s clear that they should? It’s easy for me to say sitting from my perch, but I seriously don’t think the game needs plays like the ones these players initiate at times. 

IMO Wilson should have received a couple of more games. Sure, I just don’t like the way this guy plays, but it was an unnecessary move and could have been dangerous. Luckily Seney was ok. The DoPS stated that the hit didn’t meet their criteria of a suspendable hit. Well, yikes! If you haven’t seen this you can find it online, and all DoPS matters are on the league’s website…

DON’T LOOK NOW, but since the Wild’s big road trip closeout win versus STL just three Sundays ago, the team is 3-6. On top of this, in the games lost, they have all been regulation losses, no OT or SO points have been accumulated whatsoever. This is of major concern. In this league you are going to lose some games, that’s a fact. But you try to get as many single points from those games as you can, and the Wild have not been doing that. Last week the team went 0-3. They dominated Arizona for two periods before letting them back in the game in the third and taking the 4-3 loss. They went out to play the CBJ and lost a game they never led in 4-2 and came back home to drop perhaps the flukiest game I have seen in some time to the Toronto Maple Leaf’s 5-3, with the final Leaf tally on an ENG. On the good side I firmly believe the team played their best game of the year only to lose on two deflected goals that were gifts to the Leaf’s, one off a glove, the other off Wild D-man Nick Seeler’s chest. All I can say is that the Wild pretty much spanked the Leaf’s all over the ice and didn’t get rewarded for their efforts. This week, the Western road swing; @VAN, @CGY, and @EDM. I’m mostly worried. 

WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 15th with a 66% chance at the playoffs, trending for 93 points, 2% chance for the Stanley Cup. The SAGARIN, 12th on a 14-12 record, 3-6 vs T10, 4-8 vs T16 with a schedule difficulty of 24th. NHL Standings, t10th with 14 wins, 12th on pct. of points available @ .577, overall standings, 14th on 30 points, 8th in the Western Conference with a 14-10-2 record, (VGK = 29 points, w/Wild having 2 games in hand) 5th in the Central Division, currently in the 2nd Wild Card position for the SC playoffs. 8-4-2 at Home, 6-6 on the Road. 0-1 in SO, 4-6 in L10. Current streak = L3. 83GF, 76GA, +7 Differential. 

WHAT ARE THE Wild woes? Ryan Suter is not 100% recovered from injury/surgery. As a result, Coach Boudreau keeps juggling the “D” pairs in the thought that that will remedy that. It won’t. And Devan Dubnyk’s game has dropped drastically from October when he was one of the league best tenders. His November SP% was 8 points less… Over & Out! PEACE