Capitals’ Wilson earned his suspension

PITTSBURGH — Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals still has one game remaining on his well-deserved suspension from the NHL.

He earned it with a vicious hit that broke Zach Aston-Reese’s jaw. The video doesn’t lie. When Wilson aimed his shoulder at Aston-Reese’s head and collided with suffient force to lift both skates off the ice, the intent was clear.

The NHL doesn’t like to sit players during the playoffs, but Wilson left them no choice.

It is worth noting that Wilson is not some knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who sits at the end of the bench and only gets on the ice when mayhem breaks out. He plays on the Capitals’ first line with Alex Ovechkin.

Penguins fans ought to understand that some of the most egregious play can come from an otherwise valuable hockey player.

Matt Cooke spent five seasons with the Penguins from 2008-13, confounding everyone by being both a useful winger and an absolute menace who was hated around the NHL.

Cooke had a number of incidents. The worst was the game when he lined up Boston’s Marc Savard for a check and delivered an elbow to the head that knocked Savard out of the lineup for two months.

He got four games for another dirty hit against Fedor Tyutin. When Cooke elbowed Ryan McDonough in the head, it cost him 10 regular season games and the first round of the playoffs.

The Penguins talked to him about reforming his game, about avoiding those bursts af rage that had him trying to injure opponents. Things got better, but he was never fully reformed.

When Cooke moved on to play for Minnesota, he drew a seven-game suspension for a knee-to-knee hit on Tyson Barrie.

So while Wilson’s behavior may be reprehensible, it isn’t unfamiliar.

There used to be player just like that wearing black and gold.

Ben’s reaction

Ben Roethlisberger turned up on a radio interview last week and expressed his disappointment that the Steelers spent a third-round draft pick to select Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Roethlisberger was especially dismayed since he told management before the draft that he planned to play another three to five seasons.

Of course, plans don’t always work out.

Terry Bradshaw was 35 in 1983 and not thinking about retirement. But he wrecked his elbow and his career was over. He attempted only eight passes in his final season.

That’s how quickly things can change.

In a perfect world, Roethlisberger will be around for several more seasons and continue to play at a high level. But his intentions are only one part of the process.

Vontaze Burfict may wind up making the decision for Roethlisberger and the Steelers. If there’s another concussion, maybe a different Roethlisberger — wife Ashley — makes the retirement decision.

The Steelers had a chance to draft a quarterback they had rated as worthy of a first-round pick. They chose the insurance policy. Hard to blame them for that.

Ben gets to pick the offensive coordinator. Maybe he can let management handle the draft.

Be alert

Given that the Pirates are paying Starling Marte $7.5 million this season, maybe Marte could pay attention?

Making exchanges

When the Pirates left for Washington to start their current three-city trip, they were wearing Penguins jerseys.

It was Clint Hurdle’s idea, his way of showing support for the Penguins. The players are responsible for getting their own hockey jerseys.

They did this a few years ago, and one player purchased a Penguins jersey at a local sporting goods store. The player was careful to preserve all the tags on the garment.

And when the trip was over, he took the jersey back to the store and got his money back.

Mehno can be reached at: johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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