Caps GM Brian MacLellan describes sense of ‘frustration’ over Tom Wilson suspension

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Andrew Gillis
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Caps GM says there's 'frustration' with team on Wilson suspension originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan described the "frustration" in the organization over the seven-game suspension levied on Tom Wilson for his hit on Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo last week when speaking to reporters on Friday.

“I think I’ve spent a lot of time with Tom discussing, there is no one that knows the details of body checking and what the league is looking for and evaluating body checking on more than Tom,” MacLellan said. “I mean, he’s very detailed in it. So when we get into a situation that doesn’t exactly fit into a suspendable hit situation I think everyone gets frustrated. Player gets frustrated, coach gets frustrated, management gets frustrated.”

Wilson was suspended on March 7 for the fourth time in his career for boarding Carlo and forfeited $311,781. The hit left Brandon Carlo with a concussion and sent him to the hospital. 

The Bruins called Wilson’s hit “predatory,” while Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said it was a “hockey play.” Captain Alex Ovechkin called the suspension “a joke.”

The hit became fodder around the league for what a suspendable play looks like, as it was abundantly clear the hit itself, were it made by nearly any other player, would not warrant a suspension of seven games — if at all. 

“I think the result of the hit is not what you want, and I think maybe Tom got punished for that,” MacLellan said. “...This category of the totality of the circumstances is new. And I see, you know, where they are trying to fit, was it a suspendable hit or was it not a suspendable hit, into that category and so I think basically we are frustrated with it.”

Wilson is eligible to return to the ice on March 20 against the Rangers, leaving the Capitals without a top-six winger for two weeks as he serves his suspension. Thursday against the Flyers, the team skated 11 forwards with center Lars Eller absent while dealing with a family matter.

Wilson could have appealed his suspension, as he did in 2018 when he was suspended for 20 games (which was reduced to 14 through a neutral arbiter), but the time spent on the appeal wouldn’t have been worth it. By the time Wilson was done with the appeal process, his suspension likely would’ve been over anyway. 

“I think discussions with the Players' Association, Tom and Tom's agent on whether it would make sense,” MacLellan said. “I think the appeal takes a pretty lengthy time. You have to go through Gary Bettman, the commissioner, first to get to an independent arbitrator. So I think we felt...they felt by the time that went through his suspension would be up, he would have served his suspension.”

The Caps face off against the Flyers on Saturday at 7 PM. Coverage starts at 6 on NBC Sports Washington.