Tom Wilson was at it again Monday night -- crossing the line with dirty play and putting opponents at risk of injury -- but the NHL again missed the mark when it came time to hand down punishment to the Washington Capitals forward.
The action erupted in the second period after a whistle had been blown with the puck in the Capitals crease. Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich laid on the ice and Wilson punched him in the back of the head for no reason. The Rangers, as they should have, came to Buchnevich's defense. One of those players was Artemi Panarin, who got tangled up with Wilson.
Wilson threw multiple punches at Panarin before slamming him to the ice and then punching him in the head again. Panarin then got to his feet and Wilson threw him down to the ice again!
Check out the crazy sequence of events in the video below:
What was the league's response Tuesday morning? Had to be a suspension, right?
Nope, merely the maximum fine the CBA permits.
It was a weak and, frankly, embarrassing decision from the league. If the league cares about player safety, it has to make a prime example of players like Wilson who refuse to learn from previous discipline.
Wilson has been suspended five times in his career, in addition to multiple fines and other plays that were on the edge but didn't receive further discipline. How many times does he have to put players' health at risk before the league does something substantial about it?
His most recent suspension came in March when he hit Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo up high along the boards. He was suspended seven games.
Taking no action against Wilson for his antics with Panarin is pretty suspect as well. Wilson slams him to the ice and then lifts him up and shoves him back down to the ice. Panarin could have been seriously injured.
The Rangers and Capitals already have an intense rivalry, and you can bet Wednesday night's encore at MSG is going to be must-see television.
There will be more anger between these teams and it could quickly get out of hand. The Rangers will want to defend their best player after Wilson tossed him around. New York also has nothing to play for after being eliminated from playoff contention Monday night. So, what do they have to lose in retaliating against Wilson? Pretty much nothing.
The league could have prevented this scenario by dealing with Wilson in an appropriate manner, like suspending him. But again, the Department of Player Safety failed to give Wilson the proper punishment, and that's not going to deter him from ever changing his style of play.