The Capitals earned four out of six points, the team looks like it finally found a top-line winger in Jakub Vrana, and Pheonix Copley earned his first NHL win all on a three-game road swing through Western Canada. But the news wasn’t all good on the road trip as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld a 20-game suspension for Tom Wilson that, even with a second appeal pending, is likely to keep him out of the lineup through mid-November.
Once again, the team was left disappointed with the decision.
“I think it's unfortunate,” T.J. Oshie said at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Sunday. “I'm a close friend with Tom and I didn't agree with the suspension in the first place. I think it's pretty harsh in my opinion.”
Wilson was suspended 20 games for a hit he delivered to St. Louis Blue forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason. Wilson appealed the suspension and was given an opportunity to state his case to Bettman.
Bettman upheld the suspension in a 31-page ruling released Friday. While there was clear frustration with the decision in the locker room, the fact that it was the NHL Commissioner handing down the ruling left some players tight-lipped.
“I'm trying not to get in trouble,” Devante Smith-Pelly said. “That's his ruling so we'll see what the other appeal, what happens with that.”
“We're just players,” Jakub Vrana said. “We can only go out there and work and these guys have to make those decisions. What can I say? I'm not going to change his mind.”
Others expressed their displeasure in the appeals process itself.
“It's not much of a surprise when [Bettman’s] the middle guy in this because he works for one side,” Braden Holtby said of the ruling. “I don't know, I think a lot of kind of expected that to happen on this one, just move on to the next one with the real guy that's a neutral arbitrator.”
“They talked it out I guess for a pretty long time and for them not to waiver at all on that I think is unfair,” Oshie said referring to the seven-hour appeal Wilson had with Bettman. \
“If they're going to send messages like this then it's hard to go back. It seems like every time you either make a mistake or hit the guy the wrong way or he moves or you move, you're going to get suspended now so there's now very little room for error after giving the guy 20 games.”
Wilson will now have a second appeal that will be heard by a neutral arbitrator on Wednesday. Wilson will remain suspended until the arbitrator issues a ruling and it is possible he will have served most if not all of his suspension before then.
Until then, the Caps will have to get along without their top-line winger. While the players have accepted that fact, the prevailing sense within the locker room is that, whether by the original suspension or the appeal, Wilson was wronged.
Said Holtby, “We still feel the same way we do. We think Tom's been mistreated in this and we're sticking behind him.”
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: