Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese has no solutions to latest Tom Wilson controversy
NEWARK, N.J. – Zach Aston-Reese has enough to worry about. He really does.
The 24-year-old winger started the year in the AHL and was just recently promoted to fourth-line duty for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s trying to establish himself as a regular in the top league in the world and trying to do his part to help his team overcome an uneven start to the season.
Yes, he probably does have a different perspective on all matters Tom Wilson than most.
While the Washington Capitals winger’s track record of violent hits is relatively long, there are still only a handful of players in the league who have actually been injured at his hands, and Aston-Reese is one of them.
But no, he doesn’t have any answers on days like Tuesday, when word came that an independent arbitrator reduced Wilson’s suspension for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist from 20 to 14 games.
“Whenever there was a big hit or something, I was always asked, ‘How do you feel about this?’ I probably feel the same way everyone else in the locker room does,” Aston-Reese said amiably. “Maybe one day I’ll work for player safety, but I’m not there yet. I don’t really have the answers to all those questions. I was more worried about getting in the lineup. Now I’m worried about staying and helping the team win. I’m over it, all that stuff.”
Most Penguins players took the same approach as Aston-Reese when discussing the reduction of Wilson’s suspension Tuesday. If they had any strong opinions, they kept them to themselves.
“Obviously you have certain feelings toward certain things, but it doesn’t always work out in your favor,” defenseman Jamie Oleksiak said.
There seemed to be a general dissatisfaction among some players with how complicated the process is. Wilson’s suspension was handed down by the department of player safety and appealed to commissioner Gary Bettman before the arbitrator made his ruling about six weeks after the hit took place.
Center Matt Cullen said the optics of the reduction weren’t good for the league and its reputation. He also said the effectiveness of the punishment – whether it changes Wilson’s behavior or not – will probably not be determined by the particulars of the suspension.
“Anytime that I’ve seen it happen, it’s seemingly come from coaches and management within the organization,” Cullen said. “I don’t think that coming from the league it changes a player. When the league suspends them, I think often it doesn’t do a lot.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.