The NHL has come under a lot of fire for not being tough enough on the post season violence which seems to be spiraling out of control. This suspension to Raffi Torres could be seen as a response from the NHL to it’s critics that it is putting it’s foot down. That would be wrong, however.
The NHL is not making a statement here to anyone other than Torres himself. He has been suspended five times in as many years, all for hits involving the head of his opponent. This suspension is for Raffi Torres being Raffi Torres and for simply not getting the message yet that you can’t hit guys in the head anymore.
The hit that Torres laid on Marian Hossa, ten years ago, would have been deemed a good clean hockey hit. Poor Hossa, shoulda kept his head up. Scott Stevens is often referenced as a player who received much acclamation for delivering this type of hit. Those days are simply past.
Having said all that, I feel that 25 games is too much. While this was not in any way a legal hit, it is very close to one that is. If Torres stays on his feet, hits Hossa .3 seconds sooner and three inches lower, this is a great hockey hit. And that is the main problem the NHL has right now. A good hit and a dirty hit are separated by a very fine line. Torres’ main fault is repeatedly just crossing the line. Ten games would have sent the message that predatory hits are unacceptable and been sufficient to factor in Torres as a repeat offender. 25 games adds in an attempt to prove that the league is taking hockey violence seriously at a time when sponsors are growing concerned. Essentially, through his own actions, Raffi Torres has become the scapegoat. For now.
The problem I have with this suspension is not that I don’t think Torres deserves it (he does, mostly), but that it provides zero deterrent for other players who play close to the same line. Any player viewing the leagues response immediately knows that the severity of the suspension has nothing to do with the hit, a little to do with the resulting injury and almost everything to do with Torres. 25 games for being Raffi. It’s such a long suspension that only Raffi Torres could receive it, which in effect nullifies its value as anything other than a reactionary punishment.
If the league were really serious about preventing head injuries and escalating levels of violence; if they wanted to send a message to all the players that they are watching and willing to act, they would have suspended Shea Weber for his head smashing of Henrik Zetterberg. Even one game to Weber would have been far more of a message to the players than what Torres got.