Oates takes a stand for Wilson

Oates takes a stand for Wilson
December 19, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Wilson's big hit sparks fights vs. Flyers

Minutes before defending Capitals rookie Tom Wilson in a noon phone hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety, Caps coach Adam Oates again emphasized that Wilson did everything right – and nothing wrong – on his big hit on Flyers center Brayden Schenn on Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

“It was shoulder to shoulder,” Oates said. “He didn’t leave his feet or anything. To me, Schenn saw Willy and had every opportunity to resist the hit.

“It’s not a dirty hit, it’s not a late hit. Nothing [to] the numbers, no elevation. The kid [Schenn] chose to try to spin out. Wrong choice. To me, it’s a totally clean hit.”

The NHL may very well rule otherwise today. The maximum penalty for a phone hearing is a five-game suspension. Wilson has no prior suspension history in the NHL but was suspended five games by the Ontario Hockey League for checking from behind.

Wilson was not made available by the Capitals following Thursday’s practice.

Oates said Wilson’s ability to check “through” players is one of his greatest strengths as a player and he fears a suspension might send the 19-year-old rookie the wrong message.

“Some guys have to slow down to hit. He can hit through guys. Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] can hit through guys. Ovi hit through Schenn the game before. Some guys have that talent.”

RELATED: [Wilson to have NHL hearing Thursday for hit on Schenn]

Oates took his argument one step further, saying that as a left-shot centerman, Schenn’s safest play would have been turning the puck up the boards and not exposing the puck to the middle.

“He chose to go toward the net,” oates said. “As a left-shot centerman that’s an incorrect play in my book. If Willy takes him of the puck we have a 2-on-1 at the net.”

Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said there is some confusion among players as to what constitutes a suspendable hit, especially when it comes to opposing players making themselves vulnerable along the boards.

There was no doubt in Ovechkin’s mind that Wilson should not be suspended for the hit.

“I don’t think it was a bad hit,” he said. “Sometimes you see a bad hit and you think, ‘Wow, that has to be a suspension.’ That hit was clean. He just tried to outmuscle him.

“Of course, no one wants to get hurt. We respect each other. We play for different teams but we’re still hockey players. It’ a physical game, but if you’re not ready, you’re not ready.”

Oates said he spoke to Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan last week about the hit Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson had to the head of Capitals left wing Eric Fehr.

“I know what [the NHL] wants,” Oates said. “It’s a really difficult thing because no two plays are the same. Everybody’s trying their best. Guys have questions and the more we can communicate the better to fix this.”

Ovechkin said that while he considers Wilson a friend, he is not allowing that to sway his opinion on the hit.

“It was just a situation where one guy hit another guy cleanly,” Ovechkin said, “and he just can’t handle it.”