One down, 19 more to go. That’s how many games are left until Tom Wilson’s return after he was handed a shocking 20-game suspension by the Department of Player Safety on Wednesday. On a day in which the Caps saw their Stanley Cup championship banner raised to the rafters and then went on to blow out the Boston Bruins 7-0 in the season opener, the players were still fired up after the game over the Wilson news.
“If I'm going to say what I think, they're going to suspend me too,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said.
“I think it's unfortunate for Tom that the league is making an example out of him,” T.J. Oshie said.
It was assumed that some sort of suspension would be coming after Wilson’s hit to Oskar Sundqvist on Sunday given that he was suspended three times in the past year. Because of that history, it was going to be a significant term, but 20 games surpassed even the most pessimistic of predictions and seemed to take everyone by surprise.
In addition to missing a quarter of the season, Wilson will forfeit over $1.2 million of salary. He was on the ice Wednesday for the banner raising ceremony, but that may be the last time we see him in uniform until Nov. 21 when the Caps host the Chicago Blackhawks.
The suspension potentially derails a season that held a lot of promise for Wilson who had taken a top-line role and was coming off a career year of 14 goals and 35 points.
“It's a tough thing since we don't agree with it, but it was tough for Tom,” Braden Holtby said. “I think the biggest thing is we've got to support him through this. It's unfair and tough for a good player like that. He's obviously a huge part of our team.”
“When I saw him here I went and gave him a hug,” T.J. Oshie said. “I said I'm sorry. It's unfortunate, you know, he wants to be out here with us. He earned a nice contract and now he's losing a quarter of that.”
Head coach Todd Reirden would not comment on the suspension after the game saying he believed Wilson would appeal the ruling. Linemate Alex Ovechkin also expressed hope that the suspension would be reduced.
Wilson found chemistry last season playing on the top line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. When he was suspended in the playoffs for a hit to Zach Aston-Reese, his absence was notable. It is hard to find a right wing that can balance out the top line defensively while also being able to keep up offensively with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov.
Brett Connolly was given the opportunity to play on the top line in Wednesday’s game. He played well, but the team knows Wilson’s absence will still be difficult to overcome for the length of the suspension.
“Tom's such a big part of our team,” Oshie said. “Top-line guy, plays big minutes in the PK and brings a lot of emotion to the game for us. He'll be missed."
Wilson has 48 hours to appeal his suspension to the Commissioner. After that, he can appeal to a neutral arbitrator. He will remain suspended throughout the appeals process.
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