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Could Wey's retirement at 24 been avoided?


Could Wey's retirement at 24 been avoided?

It is not very often that I call out players for things they do on the ice, but on March 31, 2014, I felt compelled.

That was the morning after Nashville Predators enforcer Rich Clune ended the season of Capitals rookie defenseman Patrick Wey with a knockout punch that, in hindsight, never should have happened.

Today, it was reported that Wey, 24, has decided to retire from hockey after suffering multiple concussion. It should be noted that the concussion suffered at the hands of Clune was not Wey’s first and it was not his last.

A fourth-round [115th overall] pick of the Capitals in the 2009 NHL draft, Wey had his season ended last year on Oct. 24 when he absorbed a blow to the head from Lehigh Valley Phantoms heavyweight Jay Rosehill, who received a one-game suspension for the hit.

Wey’s decision to walk away from the game at such a young age is an admirable one. But could it have been avoided?

Shortly after his fight with Clune, I remember chatting with Wey atop the Verizon Center press box and during that conversation he revealed he had suffered previous concussions before the fight with Clune and that he was concerned about his long-term health. Less than six months later he played his final game.

Wey joins a growing list of NHL players who have had to retire prematurely because of head injuries and while his retirement will warrant little more than a mention in hockey circles, it should give pause for thought for how violent – and at times unnecessarily violent – the sport of hockey can be.

Clune, who had fought 138 times since turning pro in 2007-08, had nothing to gain by fighting Wey, who had dropped the gloves just once in his career before their fight on March 30, 2014.

It was immediately after taking a clean, open-ice hit from Wey in front of the players’ benches that Clune dropped the gloves and threw a bevy of overhand right hands to the head of Wey before finishing him off with an uppercut to the chin that buckled Wey’s knees and dropped him to the ice.

Simply put, Clune’s decision to fight Wey was an overreaction to a clean hit. But it was his decision not to fight Capitals tough guy Tom Wilson the remainder of the game that made me reconsider the real value of fighting in the game. For years I have stood by the argument that fighting belongs in the game and serves as a deterrent to dirty hits. But after considering the plight of Wey, it may be time to reconsider.

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Defense optional as Caps handed 8-5 loss in Chicago

Defense optional as Caps handed 8-5 loss in Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks handed the Capitals their fifth straight loss on Sunday in an ugly 8-5 defeat. All five of Washington's goals came from defensemen as the team's top forwards continued to struggle.

Here are five reasons the Caps lost.

Missed early opportunities

The game got off to a great start. Tom Wilson fed Jakub Vrana in the middle for a great early opportunity and Lars Eller had another shot with the rebound. Washington also got a power play less than two minutes into the game and was brilliant with the setup, keeping the puck in the zone for the full two minutes and getting a number of high-quality opportunities.

But they didn’t score and that soon loomed very large.

Brandon Saad put Chicago on the board 6:36 into the first and Patrick Kane scored 80 seconds later to make it 2-0, thus erasing the Caps’ strong start.

The goals have been hard to come by for the Caps so when they had the opportunity to take the early lead, they absolutely had to finish. They didn’t and the game got away from them as a result.

A bad play by Madison Bowey

Bowey will be cringing at the replay of the Saad goal for a while. Saad broke the puck out of the defensive zone and carried it into the neutral zone. Bowey had a bead on him until Saad cut to the center. Suddenly Bowey was caught flat footed. He reached for Saad with a weak stick check which Saad easily fought through with no real resistance and he was in on net. He finished the play with the game’s first goal.

 An own-goal

This was really the moment when you realized this was not going to be a good day for Washington.

Down 2-0, Brooks Orpik managed to sneak a softy through goalie Colin Delia to make it 2-1. Just 28 seconds later, however, bad luck struck the Caps yet again.

Dmitry Orlov and Jonathan Toews battled for the puck right in front of the crease and it bounced into he air. Orlov swiped at it with his glove to try to clear it from danger, but instead knocked it right over Holtby and into the net. The own goal made it 3-1 and signaled that Washington was in for a long day.

An ill-advised penalty

This game felt like it quickly was getting out of hand. Somehow, however, the Caps managed to keep things close. Dmitry Orlov snuck another squeaker through Delia in the second and John Carlson fired a one-timer early in the third to make the score 4-3. All of a sudden, the Caps had signs of life. With all the momentum on their side, however, Nicklas Backstrom was whistled for hooking Toews just 23 seconds later.

You could tell what was about to happen.

Sure enough, Kane scored 13 seconds into the power play to restore the Blackhawks’ two-goal lead.

The Toews hat trick

Once again, Washington tried to battle back. Matt Niskanen scored with just over six minutes remaining in the game, the fifth goal from a Caps’ defenseman, to pull the score to 6-5. Toews provided the coffin nail just over a minute later with an absolutely brutal play on Orlov.

Toews entered the offensive zone and Orlov took an awful approach. Toews finessed the puck right in front of Orlov which he should have been able to easily sweep away. Instead, he whiffed completely allowing Toews to regain the puck, step past Orlov and fired it under the pad and into the net.



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Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

The top line for the Capitals on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks is Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, but the starting lineup is Ovechkin, Backstrom and Devante Smith-Pelly. Why the change?

It all has to do with the last time the Caps visited Chicago nearly a year ago.

On Feb. 17, 2018, Washington went into the United Center and were obliterated by the Blackhawks 7-1. But that wasn’t the ugliest thing to happen that night.

While sitting in the penalty box, Devante Smith-Pelly faced racial taunts from some Chicago fans who began chanting “basketball, basketball” at him.

In the wake of the incident, Smith-Pelly handled himself about as gracefully as one could. So, in the team’s return to Chicago Sunday, head coach Todd Reirden felt he should be on the ice for the national anthem.

According to Pierre McGuire during the game broadcast, the idea came from Oshie himself, who advocated that Smith-Pelly start in his place.

The starters traditionally stand on the ice for the anthem while the rest of the players stand at the bench.

Smith-Pelly has remained active against racism in the sport. He and teammate John Carlson invited a youth hockey team whose lone African-American player had faced racial taunts during a game to the Caps’ game on Monday.

Sunday’s move by Reirden is a classy tribute to Smith-Pelly who handled an ugly situation about as well as one could.