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.
Sometimes a timeout can make all the difference. Despite a 1-0 lead in the second period, John Tortorella’s Rangers were being pushed hard by an Ottawa team that had had their number all season. Tortorella called a time out to calm his players and it worked. New York scored the next three goals to establish a 4-0 lead. Ottawa managed to get on the scoreboard with a pair of goals in the third but it was too late.
These are exciting times for the Phoenix Coyotes, even if they are being rumored to play next year in any of six different locations. The Desert Dogs earned their first division title in… ever. Even going back to their days as the Winnipeg Jets, this franchise has never won a division. Wow. I had to look it up to be sure it was true. Can they now also win their first playoff series in Phoenix?
Imagine how great the Blackhawks could have been had Dale Tallon not missed that one teeny-tiny deadline? Instead, they have to settle for backdooring into a playoff spot and hoping their stars can catch fire.
What a difference a coach makes. Under Davis Payne, the St Louis Blues began this season with a 5-7-1 record. Not terrible, but certainly below expectation for a young, up and coming team. Payne was fired after a 2-1 loss to Minnesota on November 5, 2011. He was replaced by Ken Hitchcock who guided the Blues to a 44-15-10 record the rest of the way.
Maybe San Jose should have taken note. They too had high expectations coming into this season. Exchanging forwards Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat and sending F Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota for D Brent Burns was supposed to shake things up and add defensive depth. The result was the Sharks not even entering into the playoff picture until March and April. He may have held his job to this point, but coach Todd McLellan is likely on a short leash depending on the outcome of these playoffs.