Shayne Gostisbehere is More Menacing than Tom Wilson?
May 6th, 2021
Tom Wilson got lucky, Tom Wilson survived, and Tom Wilson won’t learn his lesson. I don’t even have to attach any context to that sentence since most hockey fans know exactly what I’m talking about. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety bungled yet another suspension and it’s one I don’t think any one is going to forget either. They’re known for their inconsistencies in terms of handing suspensions and when they do, it never seems to make much sense.
The incident in question occurred on Monday when the Washington Capitals faced off against the New York Rangers. To sum it up, he essentially got away with sucker punching a defenseless player (Pavel Buchnevich) and then taking down a helmet-less player (Artemi Panarin) to the ice. He was only fined 5K for the incident.
As you can see, Buchenevich was already on the ice and surrounded by white jerseys. Tom Wilson was the one who brought him down and then he decides to sucker punch him in a very vulnerable position. Buchnevich was honestly pretty lucky to come out of that unscathed because he could’ve done some real damage to his neck/spine.
Shortly after the Buchnevich incident, a scrum ensued and all hell broke loose. Tom Wilson then finds himself involved in a skirmish with Artemi Panarin, who doesn’t have a helmet on. He pulls on his hair as he takes him down to the ice, brings him back up just to throw him back down, and then starts throwing a few punches. Once again, the Rangers player was in a very vulnerable position and avoided a serious injury, maybe even fatality, if his head had hit the ice with that much force. “Luckily” he went down shoulder first but now he’s out for the rest of the season.
Everyone around the NHL knows about Tom Wilson and his reckless intentions. He has been suspended 5 times in his career with the longest one being 20 games (later shortened to 14). The NHL tends to drop the hammer on repeat offenders by handing them longer suspensions. Yet somehow he got away with it and only had to pay a maximum fine of 5K. The New York Rangers even sent out a press release noting how upset they are with the decision and asking for George Parros, head of the player safety department, to step down or be fired. Can’t blame them either considering what happened but also what could’ve happened.
You know that with so much outrage from a “missed call”, the NHL would be on a hot pursuit to find a goat. They found that goat in Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. At the end of their game, Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman scored an empty net goal and as he scored, Gostisbehere cross-checks him in the back that leads him to crashing into the boards. There is obvious bad blood between the Flyers and Mark Friedman but on the same side of the token, it was an unnecessary action by Gostisbehere. In normal circumstances it deserved a suspension but when one wasn’t handed down to repeat-offender Tom Wilson, you can definitely argue against it. This was his first offence and he was handed a 2 game suspension while also being fined 77K.
The non-call on Tom Wilson made me start thinking about previous Flyers suspensions, some that I didn’t really agree with. I wanted to compare them in terms of severity and disciplinary action. First we have Jakub Voracek’s suspension when he thrusts his back out with Johnny Boychuk coming in from behind. He was handed a three game suspension in a very pivotal juncture of the Flyers playoff push. Tom Wilson on the other hand, almost ends two careers, but walks away scot-free with the playoffs looming. Also important to note that this was Voracek’s first offence.
Next we have Joel Farabee’s suspension in his rookie year. He was given a 5 minute major penalty for interference and a game misconduct and then handed a 3 game suspension. You can make your own judgement on the play but I don’t think this was even worthy of a suspension. Yes, he hits him high but its more shoulder than head. It was a hard check and Mathieu Perreault gets hurt on the play and because of the aftermath, the penalty and suspension was more aggressive. Once again he was in his rookie year and this was Joel Farabee’s first offence
The next two were handed to defenseman Radko Gudas. In the first sequence he rushes towards Mika Zibanejad and hits him high with his forearm. This one could be argued for either side but he does hit his head initially and his reputation of being a bruiser didn’t help the cause and he was thus handed his first suspension of 2 games. The second sequence he was given a 5 minute major for interference and then handed a 6 game suspension because the head was the principle point of contact. This one was clear as day and he even left his feet to make the hit. 6 games was the end result, partially because of the hit but also because this was his second offence.
The NHL never came outright with it but they have always used the players reputation as a precursor for a suspension. Being a repeat offender leads to a longer suspension and Gudas was suspended again a few years later for 10 games. Tom Wilson has had his fair share of lengthy suspensions, none more eye-opening than this 20 gamer.
If this seems like a biased report because I’m a Flyers fan, a couple weeks ago Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler was handed a 2 game suspension for his knee on Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman. Knee on knee collisions are obviously dangerous, Hyman was visibly hurt, Edler is a repeat offender, and there have been previous suspensions in the NHL involving knee on knee collisions. This was the right call by the NHL and they used their reasonings to good use.
In saying all that, I don’t know how anyone can look at any of the incidents and tell me that they were worse than what Tom Wilson did. In using the NHL’s own reasons against them: Tom Wilson has a bad reputation, he is a repeat offender, injuries were caused by his actions at the time, Panarin suffered a season ending injury, the head was the principal point of contact, and they were both illegal actions. On top of that, both players were lucky they didn’t have to be rushed to ER (Buchnevich being sucker punched in the neck and Panarin falling to the ice without a helmet).
Fanbases always scream about unfairness when it comes to the NHL handing out suspensions or supplementary discipline. As Flyers fans we’ve seen a lot of them over the years. Some were worthy and some were definitely not suspendable plays. Gostisbehere’s hit was reckless, dangerous, and worthy of a suspension in normal circumstances. However, when you let Wilson get away with his actions unscathed, you can’t expect us to believe in your rulings moving forward. It was evident you needed your goat and unfortunately for Gostisbehere, he served it up to you on a silver platter.
This doesn’t look like a player who regrets his actions or understands the severity either.