WHEN TOM Wilson's hit on Brayden Schenn made it all the way to a phone hearing yesterday with the NHL's Department of Player Safety, many assumed it was a foregone conclusion that Wilson would be suspended.
Wilson, 19, did not receive any supplementary discipline from Brendan Shanahan yesterday, nothing so much as a fine. For the Flyers, it ended up being a no-harm, no-foul situation, since Schenn remained in the lineup in last night's 5-4 win over the visiting Blue Jackets.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he was "a bit surprised" Wilson was not suspended. Naturally, the hit produced polarizing opinions.
In the end, the Capitals - who said all along Wilson's hit was clean - were vindicated. Wilson's 5-minute major charging penalty and game misconduct cost Washington Tuesday night's game, since the Flyers scored twice with the man advantage.
"We agree with the league's position that it was a clean hit," Capitals GM George McPhee told reporters. "There should not have been a penalty on the play. It was a punishing hit, not predatory or otherwise illegal. Under our current rules, punishing but clean hits are permitted. We are happy that Tom Wilson was vindicated and Brayden Schenn is not injured."
In a detailed video explanation of his reasoning, Shanahan said Wilson neither boarded nor charged Schenn. The video is available at NHL.com with slow- motion replays. At real-time speed, the hit looks entirely different.
"Having just looked at Wilson, Schenn begins to turn his back in an effort to avoid the contact that actually contributes to making this hit worse," Shanahan said.
The NHL rule book definition of charging is "the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any matter." Despite a route that began inside the blue line, Shanahan said Wilson slowed down to a glide before determining whether to check Schenn.
"It was asserted by Wilson in today's hearing," Shanahan said, "that the decision to hit Schenn was not made until Wilson was already inside the offensive zone faceoff circle."
When the decision was made, Wilson got in "an athletic position," and finished his check by "going shoulder-to-shoulder and staying low throughout." He did not leave his skates and did not lead with his elbow.
"In spite of the fact Wilson comes a long distance, he really skates most of that distance in a typical forechecking fashion," Shanahan said. "It's only after Schenn picks up the loose puck that Wilson, deep in the Philadelphia zone, decides to throw a bodycheck."
With the crown of his helmet striking the boards first, Schenn is extremely lucky he wasn't injured more seriously. Though it was not mentioned in the explanation, Shanahan and the NHL also takes into account whether the player receiving the hit was injured. Had Schenn missed last night's game, perhaps the outcome would have been different.
The Flyers wore a patch on the front of their jerseys in warmups last night to show support for the Philadelphia Police Department.
Among the officers invited by the team to watch the game on Police Appreciation Night was Officer Ed Davies, a 7-year veteran of the force. Davies, 41, was shot in the abdomen on Aug. 13 in Feltonville during a violet struggle inside a corner grocery store. He lost a large amount of blood and doctors were forced to remove a kidney because of the damage caused by a .45-caliber bullet. He spent 35 days in Temple University Hospital and his recovery is on-going.
Davies, a big Flyers fan and father of four, visited the team in the locker room postgame.
The Flyers also honored Officer Ernie Pollard, a former standout basketball player at Temple, as their community teammate for his work the Police Athletic League in Germantown.
After not being invited to Canada's world junior selection camp last year, Flyers' first round pick Scott Laughton was named the captain of Team Canada yesterday by coach Brent Sutter.
Former Flyers captain Mike Richards was Canada's captain in 2005, with players like Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on that roster. Laughton, 19, has said he models his game after Richards.
"He's not necessarily the most skilled player on the team, but he's a player that comes to play every night and does things the right way," Sutter told TSN. "They're the glue of the hockey team. They're guys that are very well-respected in the room."
Laughton serves as the captain of his junior team in Oshawa, where he has 24 goals and 26 assists in 50 games this season. Last year's No. 3 overall pick by Tampa Bay, Jonathan Drouin, and former No. 7 overall pick in Minnesota Matt Dumba, will be Laughton's alternate captains.
Canada opens its exhibition schedule in Sweden tomorrow against Finland. The Flyers have three other prospects skating: Taylor Leier (Canada), Anthony Stolarz (USA) and Valeri Vasiliev (Russia). Most tournament games will be televised on NHL Network from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.