The Athletic polled 392 players across the NHL to answer 11 of their most urgent questions. Several prominent Capitals ended up on the list.
Alex Ovechkin was voted the person players would most like want to have a beer with while Nicklas Backstrom was named the third-most underrated player.
Perhaps the biggest news of the poll was that the Capitals had two of the top four dirtiest players in the league.
Tom Wilson was voted the second dirtiest player in the league (24%) while newly acquired defenseman Radko Gudas (7%) finished fourth. Brad Marchand “won” the poll with 29% of the vote.
Despite turning a new leaf this season, Wilson still remains a pariah among his brethren in the NHL.
“He does some stupid sh*t,” a Pacific Division player said to The Athletic. “But he can play the game at least. He walks the edge and is very effective to his team.”
#TopLineTom skates with Backstrom and Ovechkin on the Capitals first line. This season, Wilson is fifth on the team in goals (14) and seventh on the team in points (33). He also became the youngest forward in Capitals’ history to play in 500 games.
But Wilson’s highlight-reel hits (he literally knocked Lubomir Visnovsky out of the NHL), violent fights (he once broke Ian Cole’s orbital bone), and long history with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety were still front and center in other NHL players’ minds.
Wilson has been suspended four different times during his NHL career. All four suspensions were 13 months of each other from September 2017 through October 2018.
“I had a year or so there where it felt like a lot was going wrong, I was getting a lot of heat and got some suspensions,” Wilson, who was labeled a head-hunter and a predator, said to Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford. “It was just the snowball effect.”
Since then, Wilson has altered his game and delivers less risky hits, showing a better understanding of how his size and speed can sometimes make a legal bodycheck borderline. He’s also stayed out of the crosshairs of DoPS since he announced he would never play against the St. Louis Blues in the preseason ever again. Three of the four suspensions were due to hits against Blues players in the preseason.
Still, the perceptions and narratives remain.
Headline photo: NBC Sports Washington
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