You know that old animal fable where a scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river on its back?
Basically, a deadly ass scorpion convinces a frog to bring it on its back across a wide waterway. The frog, scared shitless that he'll get stung and die if he does, agrees to help anyway because the scorpion assures it that it would never do such a thing since it would kill them both. Halfway across the river, the scorpion indeed does sting the frog—sentencing both to a slow death. When the dying frog asks why the scorpion replies that it's just in its nature to do so.
Yeah, that scorpion sounds a lot like Tom Wilson.
It was late in the second period of a meaningless exhibition game against St. Louis last weekend, the final preseason contest of the fall for the Capitals. With Oskar Sundqvist cutting toward the middle of the ice in a clearly vulnerable position, Wilson didn't have to take a few hard strides and lay a nasty blindside check to the head of the Blues forward. He simply could've laid off, went for the puck, or even did a loop and not get involved in the play at all.
But it's just in his nature. Tom Wilson simply can't help himself.
The league finally came down hard on the repeat head-hunter on Wednesday, banning him 20 games after suspending him for the fourth time in a span of just over a year. It was an absolute necessity for the NHL's Department of Player Safety to come down hard on the Washington Capitals forward, who time and time again has shown complete reckless abandon and disregard for the safety of his coworkers.
He has somehow dodged and weaved his way around any lengthy discipline in the past, but this 20-gamer proves that his days of running around like an absolute madman and smashing skull after skull of his hockey-playing brethren won't be swept under the carpet any more. It was the longest non PED-related ban doled out by the NHL since 2016 when former Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman was given 20 games for making contact with an official, and just the ninth time ever that the league has handed out a suspension of 20 games or longer for a violent on-ice act.
This is what Wilson's last three-plus years have looked like:
2018 playoffs — Drew scrutiny three times before finally being suspended three postseason games for breaking the jaw of Penguins rookie Zach Aston-Reese.
September 2017 — Banned four regular-season games after boarding the Blues' Sam Blais.
September 2017 — Suspended two preseason games for a brutal hit on Blues forward Robert Thomas.
December 2016 — Devils defenceman John Moore was diagnosed with a concussion and missed 17 games as a result of a hit from behind from Wilson, who avoided discipline.
April 2016 — Wilson was fined 3K (lol) for a knee-on-knee collision with Pens forward Conor Sheary.
December 2015 — Went undisciplined after being ejected for boarding Panthers blueliner Brian Campbell.
December 2015 — Received a match penalty for a hit to the head of Sens forward Curtis Lazar but the misconduct was rescinded by the league before Wilson could sit for the mandatory one-game suspension.
April 2015 — Steamrolls Islanders defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky who missed the final three games of their playoff series with a concussion. No supplemental discipline for Wilson shelled out on the play.
Entering this season, no player had been penalized more than Wilson since he broke into the league in 2013. He amassed 806 penalty minutes—over 200 more PIMs than any other player during that same time span—and 11 misconducts. His three prior suspensions over the last 12 months have cost him three playoff games, four regular-season appearances and a couple of preseason contests.
Wilson has pledged in the past and as recently as a month ago to show more of his skill-game while being selective with his physical play, and the Capitals rewarded the forward with a six-year, $31-million deal this offseason after the former first-round pick recorded 15 points in 21 playoff games en route to Washington's first-ever Stanley Cup championship. That came after he scored a career-high 15 goals in the regular season.
He plays the game so hard and his teammates and Capitals fans absolutely love him for it, but man, this dude needs to relax and figure out how to play the game like a normal human being before he literally murders somebody and ends his own career in the process.
Classic scorpion tendencies if you ask me.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports CA.