COMMENTARY: San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson stirred the pot last night, during his team’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, citing his disappointment with Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown, and the Kings organization, for not expressing concern for injured Sharks forward Tomas Hertl. But why did Wilson make those remarks publicly, rather than through the usual league back channels? Why did he go to the media with his remarks? What was Wilson trying to accomplish? Frozen Royalty just might have the answer…
LOS ANGELES — According to multiple reports out of San Jose, on December 23, during their game against the Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson approached the media who cover the team on a regular basis during the second intermission, and talked about his disappointment that Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown has not expressed concern for the welfare of Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl, nor has anyone else from the Kings organization.
To review, Brown and Hertl collided in the neutral zone late in the first period during a game at Staples Center on December 19. The result was knee-on-knee contact, with Hertl suffering a right knee injury that will sideline him for at least one month, and could require surgery.
“There are a couple of different things we’re looking at,” Wilson told the San Jose media. “I think the MRI shows something, and probably going in at some point will probably reveal the rest.”
Wilson went on to criticize Brown and the Kings for their alleged lack of concern.
“Having played in this league a long time…when I was a rookie, I was tripped into a net in Hartford by the great Gordie Howe, and injured and carried off the ice,” Wilson lamented. “He came in between periods all the way around the rink to make sure I was OK. So, my response to the lack of, maybe, concern towards our player, is disappointing.”
“It’s the game of hockey,” Wilson added. “You play a playoff series, you play hard, guys battle, they fight, people get dinged up. At the end of the series, what do people do? They shake hands.”
“As I said, all I know is Gordie Howe, one of the toughest, most physical guys that ever played, found time to come in and check on me. It’s a part of the game that I think makes our game the game that it is.”
Wilson also cited recent examples, including St. Louis Blues forward Maxim Lapierre expressing concern for the well-being of Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle after Lapierre hit Boyle from behind on October 15.
Lapierre was suspended for five games as a result of the incident.
Wilson also mentioned that former Sharks forward Raffi Torres contacted Kings center Jarret Stoll after Torres’ jarring blow to Stoll’s head on May 14, 2013, during the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Torres, a repeat offender, was suspended for the remainder of the second round of the playoffs.
One could make the argument that the classy thing to do, regardless of the circumstances, would have been for Brown to call Hertl to express his concern. But the question is: did Wilson make it a point to go to the San Jose media to complain about the fact that Brown has not done that, or did the topic just come up during what started as a casual, informal press box conversation?
Either way, that is highly unusual, especially given the fact that complaining about such things goes against the culture of the game. Many within the National Hockey League’s inner circle of league and team executives, coaches, and scouts would consider Wilson’s comments to be little more than whining.
Nevertheless, whatever you do, don’t think for a second that Wilson is not fully aware of what the reaction his words and actions will get around the league. To be sure, he appears to be more worried about a seething fan base than anything else, which lends credence to the belief that this was not the result of a casual press box conversation that turned into something more substantial. Rather, it has the appearance of a carefully calculated plan by Wilson.
Wilson’s meeting with the local media was likely timed to get his words out early enough to be published with that night’s game stories, on local television and radio sports reports, and even on their own radio and television broadcasts of their game against the Avalanche. In other words, this appears to be an attempt to placate Sharks fans, who have been up in arms about the Brown/Hertl collision, especially once the NHL decided that the collision did not warrant supplementary discipline for Brown.
Looking deeper into the matter, an examination of Wilson’s comments—what he said, and what he did not say—could be very revealing as to what his true motives were when he approached the San Jose media with his remarks.
So far, Wilson has not commented on what he thought of the collision, or the fact that Brown did not receive supplementary discipline. The fact that he has not stood up for his player, like he did for Torres last May (more on that later), could mean that he doesn’t want to get hit with another $100,000 fine. But just as likely, it could mean that he knows that he doesn’t have a strong enough case to do so.
Wilson’s references to Lapierre and Torres reaching out to Boyle and Stoll, respectively, do not help his argument, either. After all, both Lapierre’s and Torres’ incidents resulted in supplementary discipline, supported by conclusive video evidence.
In the case of Brown and Hertl, there was no supplementary discipline, and the video evidence shows that Brown’s trailing leg, rather than the leading leg, made contact with Hertl’s right knee as Brown was leaning to his left. Hertl also had his legs spread wider than normal, contributing to the knee-on-knee collision.
Those were among the mitigating factors that led the NHL Player Safety department to make their decision against supplementary discipline for Brown. Those factors also place the comparisons Wilson made into the Apples and Oranges category.
At an even more rudimentary level, this is the kind of thing that NHL general managers usually handle via back channel communications. These kinds of public spats are unusual, adding more fuel to the fire regarding this being a move to placate Sharks fans more than anything else.
Making Wilson’s comments even more suspicious is that he has tried this before.
Going back to Torres’ hit on Stoll last Spring, Wilson issued a public statement on the Sharks’ web site, blasting the league for their decision to suspend Torres, saying that it was, “…abundantly clear that this was a clean hockey hit.”
But in the statement, Wilson blatantly attempted to deceive by referring to the “initial point of contact,” rather than the “principal point of contact,” which is specifically mentioned in Rule 48.1 regarding illegal hits to the head.
Wilson went on to say that the Sharks would not appeal the league’s decision, even though they railed against it, and claimed that they had made a strong case against supplementary discipline.
As I wrote back then, “if they really believed that they had such a strong case, Torres and Wilson would have already begun the appeal process. The fact that they will not appeal casts tremendous doubt about their true motivations in this matter.”
Wilson had to know that he misconstrued Rule 48.1, and he must have known that he, and the Sharks, would be fined a hefty sum for making those remarks. As such, evidence suggests that the statement was made strictly for the consumption of Sharks fans, to appease and sooth their angry souls.
For a more detailed explanation of Wilson’s deception in his blatantly obvious attempt to placate Sharks fans regarding the Torres/Stoll incident, check out: Did San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson Try To Pull A Fast One In Statement On Torres Suspension?
Under the circumstances, Wilson’s rather obvious attempt to placate seething Sharks fans after Torres’ suspension last Spring shines a suspicious spotlight on his remarks last night regarding Brown and the Kings organization. Further, when you consider the weak arguments he made, the fact that he made such comments publicly, rather than through the usual back channels, and given his past history, Wilson’s credibility is sorely lacking, and his motivations seem rather transparent.
Video Interview with Dustin Brown via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
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