Puck Daddy Countdown: Tom Wilson, concussions and a huge cap increase

7. Tom Wilson and also the refs and also the league

This is getting ridiculous.

Like, OK, the argument from the Department of Player “Safety” is that yes, the hit on Jon Marchessault was late but there was no head contact and it’s not technically illegal to hit a guy from his blindside.

But keep in mind, when Matt Cooke basically ended Marc Savard’s career, putting a Legion of Doom-style spiked shoulder pad into a guy’s chin was also technically not illegal. Didn’t change the fact that Matt Cooke had a long and prosperous history of dirty hits most guys in the league who, y’know, have respect for their opponents’ safety, wouldn’t have even tried.

Honestly, in what way is Wilson, a useful player who also happens to be an injurious dumbass, different from Cooke, a similarly effective checking forward who plays to injure? I would love to have that explained to me by a Capitals fan whose brain functions properly.

But that’s the thing with Wilson’s hit. It wasn’t technically anything more than interference but everyone (save for the Tom Wilson stans, who are all sicko freaks) agrees it was late, and y’know maybe I’m crazy here, but it seems like you should have a reasonable expectation to not get drilled at 40 miles an hour by a guy you never saw coming nearly a full second after you got rid of the puck, which is already 20 feet away from you. It’s a predatory hit, full stop. His eyes got as big as saucers; he had plenty of time to not make that hit.

Tom Wilson needs to be stopped. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Tom Wilson needs to be stopped. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Side note: Shouldn’t Ryan Reaves have beaten Wilson’s ass to death for that hit? Like, not just because a fight there is warranted in the Hockey Man’s mind, but also because if you get Wilson off the ice for five and only have to give up Reaves, that’s a great trade for Vegas. Hell, in theory Reaves’ presence in the lineup should have been a deterrent for that hit in the first place, but hey guess what: It turns out that’s not actually a thing.)

In soccer, if you commit multiple fouls throughout the game, a referee can give you a yellow card for any foul where he feels like, “OK, that’s plenty from this prick.” And Tom Wilson plays like a total prick, sorry. This guy has — or at least should have — long ago torched whatever benefit of the doubt he got from the league, but this is the Cup Final and a bunch of losers from Vancouver still cry all the time about the (deserved) Aaron Rome suspension seven years ago, so you can see why the league would want to avoid that kind of thing again.

Especially because if the NHL acknowledges the refs blew it on the Wilson minor (which maybe should have been a major?) they also must necessarily acknowledge the refs blew it even harder on the Reaves goal, which shouldn’t have counted.

And if there’s one thing the league really wants to do at all times, it’s make sure there’s nothing that would lead to refs being accountable for being horrible at their jobs. That’s playoff hockey baby!

6. Concussion stuff

Came out this week that a bunch of owners, I swear to god, acted like they had never in their entire miserable lives heard of CTE. “Never heard of it, what’s that?” kind of denials, which is pretty amazing considering all the concussion lawsuits that have been going on for the NHL and other major sports leagues. Like even if you don’t know exactly what it is, surely you’re aware that it exists — as in, you’ve literally heard it mentioned, ever.

Also, TSN uncovered a mockup of a concussion awareness poster the league put together that, as a joke I guess(?), said one of the symptoms was “feeling like a giant [sexist term for a wimp or a coward and you know the one I’m talking about].” They also removed language in the finalized versions of those posters advising players that numerous concussions can lead to dementia later in life.

Meanwhile, Johan Franzen’s wife is out here in the Detroit media telling the horror stories about her nice husband’s struggles with brain injuries.

Now, *putting my thumbs into my suspenders* I’m no fancy big-city lawyer, but it seems to me this case is not going to end well for the NHL. They’re not only bad actors on this stuff (obviously), they’re openly contemptuous of it. You’d think this many rich guys couldn’t be this stupid, but wealth strips you of your humanity and the NHL has a long, celebrated history of being horribly run.

So here we are.

5. *Lana Del Ray voice* Playing video games

Here’s my theory: If you put it out there that there’s a highly regarded prospect whose career was ruined by playing too many video games, you’re necessarily going to get every person whose team picked top-10 in the past five drafts to go, “Is it this guy?!?”

And then you have to go out there and say, “I said I wasn’t gonna do this for every player, but it’s not that one guy,” until you’ve done it for every player. So you might as well say the player the first time or — better yet — not say anything at all. Hmm.

This is like in fifth grade when someone tells you, “I have a secret but I can’t tell you what it is” and then also stands around letting you guess for 10 minutes before laughing and walking away. Dumb.

4. Melnyk!

Shout out to Daniel Alfredsson finally just saying everyone wants Eugene Melnyk to just sell the damn Senators already. Everyone hates him! Including the guy who’s running for mayor, which honestly is bound to be a fairly popular political position in town.

It’s like Melnyk keeping the team out of spite (or maybe to get some more vital organs) at this point. Pretty bad scene up there. Wonder if the NHL will try to force his hand here.

3. Narratives

Saw something on Twitter yesterday where they had Keith Olbermann on ESPN saying it might be wise for teams like the Oilers with mega-stars to conisder trading those elite players for several second-line talents.

You know, because of Vegas. And presumably because the Oilers sucked this year.

The premise of the argument is flawed because we know for sure Vegas didn’t just take a whole team of second-line guys. Maybe you say they were incorrectly valued as second-line talent, but that also doesn’t really address the larger issue of the argument that you should give up, say, Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews to get a handful of significantly less impactful players.

This is, I guess, Olbermann advocating for more Tyler Seguin trades. How did that work out for the Bruins, I wonder.

Anyway, you can expect this stuff to keep happening because Vegas is probably gonna win the Cup and people won’t look at the “why” of it, just that it happened. I love not learning anything from anything.

2. The Cup Final

Let’s hope tonight’s game is even 60 percent as entertaining as Game 1, but also like 150 percent better-officiated. This is good hockey.

1. A (potentially) huge cap increase

It was revealed before Game 1 that the salary cap could go up as much as $7 million next season. Not sure if that includes the players’ ability to use the 5 percent escalator (which would mean more escrow payments, but that hasn’t stopped them from both doing the escalator and then complaining about escrow).

But the idea that the cap could go up more than nine percent? Hoo boy. I’m specifically thinking about Vegas here, because they only have $50.2 million or so committed to 19 guys for next year.

And oh yeah, that $50.2 million includes David Clarkson, who they could LTIR the second they hit the cap ceiling, so in theory their actual cap number is closer to $45 million.

They need to re-sign Wild Bill Karlsson after his big season, as well as Colin Miller, Shea Theodore, and both Tomas Nosek and William Carrier. But what do you think those guys put together actually cost? Like $12 million? So they’re up to maybe like $57 million.

This team having like THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS to spend this summer? Come on, man. Imagine they take a run at that Erik Karlsson/Bobby Ryan trade again and pull it off. Imagine they take a run at Ilya Kovalchuk. Imagine they take a run at John Tavares. “You don’t pay state income tax” and (maybe) “We just won a Stanley Cup” is a hell of a sales pitch, no?

Get Karlsson and Bobby Ryan, that’s like $13.75 million. Big chunk of change but presumably Ottawa will take money back, too, just because they have to hit the cap floor at the very least. So maybe $10 million for those two in terms of net costs? OK, that gets them up to $67 million (or more) in cap obligations.

Give Tavares $10 million, whatever. That’s $77 million. Give Kovalchuk $5 million. That’s $82 million.

Plus you can probably finagle a couple sell-high trades to get some money off the books elsewhere. C’mon. It would be incredible.

(Not ranked this week: That Evander Kane deal.

When people said Evander Kane should be locked up, this is not what they meant!

Ha ha ha. Pretty good joke.

But for real, when you can give $7 million times seven to a 27-year-old who can’t stay healthy and has a career high of 57 points (set six years ago) and comes with a litany of what can be generously described as “off-ice issues” (multiple assault allegations) you gotta do it. Right?)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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