New Jersey Devils: No, I Would Not Like Tom Wilson On My Team

Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Here we go again. Controversial… sorry, dirty Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson is in the news again. He of many hits to the head and knees put the health and safety of another human in jeopardy on a play that literally meant nothing. First, he slammed the head of Pavel Buchnevich into the ice while holding his stick around his throat. Then, he yanked Artemi Panarin down by his hair and pummelled the man.

For this, the NHL fined Wilson $5,000 and suspended him for exactly zero games. For this:

Both these videos tell the story of the incident. Wilson sees that Pavel Buchnevich is down and not really moving except a few twitches of his leg (which fans of the play really tried to say was him “kicking” the goalie. Give me a break). So, Wilson decides to get a couple of punches to Buchnevich’s head. He was down and not moving with his face pressed against the ice, and Wilson couldn’t help himself but punch the guy who couldn’t punch back.

That’s what this comes to. Tom Wilson can’t help himself. He’s that friend you have that sees red at the bar when someone bumps into him on accident. Then, you have to decide whether you want to fight a bunch of men or women or if you want to leave your friend on his own. It’s exhausting.

That must be how it feels to be a fan of Tom Wilson. Fans feel the need to defend him at every turn. It can be a dirty hit, a dangerous play, or what happened on Monday night, which was clearly both. Then, these fans will defend the play by saying things like “you’d love Tom Wilson if he was on your team”. No, I would not.

We’ve been forced into this situation before. A little over a year ago, there were rumors that defenseman Slava Voynov was going to return to the NHL, or at least he had the option to return to the NHL. I wrote a personal piece saying that I would rescind my Devils fanship while he was employed by the team if that happened.

It’s about ethics here. Wilson hasn’t done anything as heinous as Voynov. That one seems like an easy line not to cross, but it’s about how exhausting it must be to root for a player like Wilson. It forces people to throw their own ethics out the window because of who they root for on the ice. It forces fans to find an excuse for a guy with a long history of transgressions.

Sports and politics often overlap in how we feel as a people, but where it often becomes the same is the vitriol in which people will defend the side they root for. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, but more than anything we want to win. If someone helps us win, whether it’s on the ice or at the polls, we find a way to defend anything that person does.

This is where Capitals fans are at with Wilson. Fans either defend him with everything they have or they completely omit themselves from the conversation. That’s why we will always have opinions like these:

This is unabashedly untrue. GMs in every league say no to players that are headaches. Evander Kane was a 30-goal scorer, but his financial situation makes him a colossal headache. So, most teams would pass on adding him to their team. Would the New Jersey Devils GM take Wilson if he were available? It doesn’t seem like that’s true. They made Miles Wood change the way he plays to keep his skill on the ice and stay out of the penalty box. And he hasn’t been suspended since the 2017-18 season.

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There is nothing saying you have to lose your ethics to root for a hockey team. Nobody on the Devils want Tie Domi on the team for what he did to Scott Niedermayer. Nobody needs to wish that Wilson is on this team. He’s done this to the Devils before when he hit Brett Seney late.

We don’t have to root for Wilson because he’s not leaving the Capitals, but if a player comes in the league and plays like this, this isn’t “necessary” in today’s NHL. Sure, add someone like Pat Maroon or Brian Boyle who provide skill and toughness. You can even add someone who can fight to your team. That’s perfectly fine. But there’s no reason to add a guy who continuously puts opponents in a dangerous situation in order to “defend his teammates” or whatever cockamamy excuse these old school hockey men will come up with next.