Wilson should have been suspended for punching Buchnevich and injuring Panarin — perhaps for the entirety of the playoffs. As Rangers coach David Quinn said, he has “zero respect for the game.” And yet, the fact that he wasn’t tells you that Wilson — and others like him — still have a place in the game.
Of course, we knew this already.
As much as we want to believe that the NHL has moved away from the sideshow antics of staged fights and headhunting, and instead put an emphasis on speed, skill and creativity, you can’t win a Stanley Cup without getting your hands dirty. You need a Tom Wilson-type of player, someone who straddles the line of with his physical play.
In some cases, you might need two of them.
It is a blueprint that Boston has subscribed to for years. And which has been copied several times over by championship teams such as Washington, St. Louis and even Tampa Bay. You cannot win without skill. But your skilled players cannot do the things that make them effective without the proper amount of protection.
It is why Toronto, which hasn’t made it out of the first round since 2004, signed Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton and Bogosian in the summer, and then spent a first-round pick on Nick Foligno. And why Montreal got Corey Perry and Joel Edmundson.
You can say that Wilson, who received a seven-game suspension earlier this year for his high hit on Boston’s Brandon Carlo, is way worse than the other names mentioned. That he doesn’t just play physical and straddle the line of good taste, but that he crosses it — over and over and over again. That he doesn’t care about his peers. That he lacks a moral compass and is genuinely a despicable human being.