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Tom Wilson avoids suspension but still has work to do when it comes to his reputation

Tom Wilson avoids suspension but still has work to do when it comes to his reputation

Tom Wilson will not have a hearing with the Department of Player Safety, reports Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, meaning he will not be suspended for his hit to Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin in Game 2.

According to Wyshynski, “the department of player safety determined that Wilson's contact with Dumoulin was not considered an illegal check to the head. It felt that contact with the head was unavoidable on the play, and Dumoulin bracing himself for the [Alex] Ovechkin hit materially changed the position of his head prior to Wilson making contact with him.”

You can watch the play in the video above.

Rule 48 which deals with illegal checks to the head makes an exception for hits that are deemed unavoidable. As Dumoulin sees Ovechkin coming, he slows and shifts his body back which puts him in the path of the backchecking Wilson, thus making the hit unavoidable.

"I'm backchecking the puck and he stops," Wilson said after the game. "Obviously it's a big collision. I'm at no point trying to target the head at all. I'm skating, backchecking, trying to do my job and unfortunately, there's a collision there. I've watched it briefly and I don't realize what I can really do any different."

Head coach Barry Trotz was not surprised by the league’s decision not to suspend Wilson.

“The league is a neutral party, they look at it,” Trotz said to the media on Monday. “I know each organization, each fan base will have their own opinions. That's why there's a neutral party in this. Whatever they decided, we were fine with.”

While Wilson will avoid any supplementary discipline, you can be sure the referees will be keeping an eye out for him when he takes the ice in Game 3. Despite that and the fact that Wilson has taken up a top-line role with the Capitals this season, it is undeniable that he is widely perceived outside of the Washington fanbase as little more than a goon.

Wilson may have been utilized as a fourth-line fighter at times in the past. But the Capitals have seen his game evolve well beyond that.

“[Wilson] still plays a real hard game,” teammate Matt Niskanen said. “He's a bull in a china shop and when he gets motoring, boy he's a force. But you can see he's making a conscious effort on his hits to keep his elbows down, stay on his feet. Offensively, his game's come a long ways, but his physical play is, he's trying to walk the line of being a real physical player, but play clean, keeping his elbows down, feet on the ice. I think he's doing a good job and he's playing the game the way he should, the way he needs to to be a really effective player. He's been really good for us and I'm sure that'll continue.”

There’s no question Wilson’s reputation is high within the locker room. Around the league, however, it is a different story.

The challenge for Wilson is to remain a physical force against opponents while working to improve his reputation with the league and establish himself as a responsible player.

It’s a fine line to walk.

“Sometimes those reputations stay with you a little bit and you have to outgrow that a little bit, if you will,” Trotz said. “Takes a little time. I think he's doing a really good job. He studies it, he looks at it, he's trying to get better all the time. It's something he has to battle a little bit.”


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

Less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup, the Caps are in need of a new head coach.

Barry Trotz resigned as the Caps coach on Monday after he and the team failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. How did we get here and where do both parties go from here? JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break it all down.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden


7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

For now, Todd Reirden appears to be the frontrunner to be the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.

But who is he? 

Here are some things to know about the Capitals head coaching candidate:

1. Reirden spent the last four seasons with Washington on Barry Trotz's staff

Should Reirden be hired, he would bring a measure of familiarity with him few teams get after a coaching change. Reirden was hired by Trotz in 2014 when Trotz was putting together his staff. He was brought in to coach the team's defense and immediately improved the blue line.

In the year prior to Reirden's hiring, the Caps allowed 2.74 goals per game, good for only 21st in the NHL.

Here is what the defense has done in Reirden's four years in charge of the defense:

2014-15: 2.43 goals against per game, 7th in the NHL
2015-16: 2.33 goals against per game, 2nd in the NHL
2016-17: 2.16 goals against per game, 1st in the NHL
2017-18: 2.90 goals against per game, 16th in the NHL

In those four seasons combined, Washington allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than every team in the NHL but one. He was also in charge of the team's lethal power play.

2. Reirden has been a head coach before

While he may never have been a head coach in the NHL, Reirden does have some head coaching experience.

Reirden was promoted to head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2009 when Dan Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While head coach, Reirden led the team to a 55-43-8 record.

3. Reirden came to Washington from the Penguins

Reirden joined the Penguins organization in 2008 as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate and took over as head coach later that season. He joined the Penguins' playoff staff during the 2009 Cup run. He was promoted to a full-time assistant coach under with the NHL team under Bylsma in 2010 and was there for four years until Byslma was fired. Reirden was not initially fired, but was allowed to seek other opportunities. When he was officially fired, the Capitals hired him the same day.

4. Reirden had a lot to do with Matt Niskanen signing with the Caps

Reirden was hired by the Caps on June 25, 2014. On July 1, Matt Niskanen signed with Washington.

Reirden and Niskanen developed a strong relationship while in Pittsburgh. Niskanen dealt with confidence issues after getting traded from Dallas to Pittsburgh in 2011. Under Reirden's tutelage, Niskanen developed into a top-pair defenseman. Niskanen's agent said at the time it was "no secret" that Reirden and Niskanen had bonded while both were in Pittsburgh.

Brooks Orpik also signed with the Caps as a free agent that year, the second defenseman from Pittsburgh to sign in Washington showing the level of respect they felt for Reirden.

5. Reirden nearly became the head coach of Calgary

Reirden interviewed for the head coaching job in Calgary in 2016 and was considered a finalist for the position before eventually losing out Glen Gulutzan.

Gulutzan was fired by Calgary after the 2017-18 season and is now an assistant coach in Edmonton while Reirden is the frontrunner to become the head coach for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Sounds like things worked out for Reirden.

6. The Caps have been grooming Reirden to be a head coach

Reirden was promoted to associate coach in August 2016 after Calgary had passed on him. Since then, the Caps have not allowed him to interview with other teams for head coaching positions. The implication was clear, this was someone the team wanted to keep.

"You know I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach whether for us or someone else," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan Monday.

7. Reiden played in 183 career NHL games

Reirden was a defenseman drafted in the 12th round by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. After playing four years at Bowling Green, Reirden went pro with several seasons in the ECHL, IHL and AHL. He made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1998-99 season. Reirden would also play with the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes. 

For his NHL career, Reirden scored 11 goals and 46 points in 183 games.