After the Capitals’ 5-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, the main topic of conversation was Ryan Reaves‘ late, blindside hit on Tom Wilson. Reaves was ejected from the game, while Wilson did not return to the game due to an upper-body injury, likely a concussion.
Wilson is the third Capitals player to receive a serious head injury this season, and many of the players, including Braden Holtby, seem more frustrated with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s inaction than with Reaves’ hit.
“I don’t think any of us in here have any clue what the player safety department bases anything off of anymore,” Holtby said. “That’s something that’s completely out of our hands.”
“Who knows anymore?” Brett Connolly said in an article by The Athletic about what DoPS deems illegal. “I don’t feel like anyone knows what’s going on anymore.”
Related: One #ALLCAPS player told me during the preseason that they were shown a presentation from the DOPS. Player said they were more confused and had more questions after the presentation than they did before https://t.co/P6yhiipajI
— Ben Raby (@BenRaby31) December 5, 2018
Head coach Todd Reirden thought Reaves’s hit was late and predatory. “Reaves targeted him the entire game,” he said after the game. “You could hear it on every faceoff. You could hear the things that were being said. It’s a blindside hit where an unsuspecting player hits his head on the ice. That’s disappointing. You could put two and two together, but he targeted him the entire game, so you can figure that out from there.”
Reirden had expressed some frustration with DoPS after Wilson received a match penalty for an interference call in November, saying “[w]e just had two players that had concussions they don’t even call a penalty on.”
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov only recently returned to the lineup after sitting out with an injury. He was concussed after being elbowed in the head by Brandon Tanev on November 14. Tanev was not penalized on the play or after the game.
Right wing TJ Oshie was also injured in that same game against the Jets and has only recently begun skating again. The Jets’ Josh Morrissey was unpenalized during the game for his WWE-style move that slammed Oshie into the ice. Morrissey was fined $8,453 but not suspended.
Jakub Vrana said in his postgame interview that he thought the hit was bad but, like most of the Capitals, was uncertain about what would be done about it. “I think it was pretty dirty, because his body was already turned the other way, he couldn’t see him there. I don’t know,” Vrana said. “I think it was dirty, but we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Reaves was given a five minute major for interference and a game misconduct, but said after the game he thought it was a clean shoulder-on-shoulder hit. Ultimately DoPS agreed with the assessment and did not to levy supplemental discipline against him.
The Reaves decision might be right, might be wrong. But that’s less important than the likelihood that the team doesn’t trust and understand the DoPS’s decision-making process. And as the injuries add up, so does their frustration with the DoPS’s inconsistency.
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