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Hockey, Sports

Raffi Torres has a pattern, thanks in part to the NHL

by Brian Beitz

Hossa taken off on a stretcher

REUTERS/Jim Young

As many Canucks fans learned from watching Raffi Torres last season, he can be a valuable addition to a team. Unfortunately, he can also be a liability, as the gritty winger has a habit of making stupid, dangerous hits—perhaps none more dangerous than his hit Tuesday night on Marian Hossa at 12:42 in the 1st period of Game 3 of the Phoenix-Chicago series. Here is the video:

This is a stupid, dangerous hit. Torres will definitely be meeting with Shanahan in the very near future, and the Shanahammer will throw the book at him. Torres, the multiple repeat offender, travels a good distance to leave his feet while crushing an unsuspecting superstar player who doesn’t have the puck. The only thing missing would be slamming his head into the glass after the game had end– What? That wouldn’t add any games? Hmm… Still, I think we’ve seen the last of Torres in the playoffs, no matter how far Phoenix goes. This has become a real tragic part of Torres’ game over the last couple years, and Torres has already been suspended 2 times in just over a year and nearly suspended a 3rd. He definitely is developing a pattern, but maybe more specific of one than you would think…

***

Here is a list of league-reviewed incidents Torres has earned over the past 2 seasons (and to be fair, in his career):

Date Incident Punishment
April 7, 2011 Elbowing Jordan Eberle in the head 4 games
April 17, 2011 Charging Brent Seabrook No suspension
December 31, 2011 Charging Nate Prosser 2 games
April 17, 2012 Charging Marian Hossa ???

Obviously, this is a guy who just isn’t learning his lesson, and I always shake my head when people tell me that Torres is greatly missed from the Canucks roster. But then, some people still foolishly want the Canucks to be gritty. What’s more, Torres has been on record several times saying that if he doesn’t finish his checks, he’s out of a job. This, to me, is a ridiculous thought. As well as being fairly solid defensively, Torres has a 46-point season under his belt and scored 27 goals in 2005-06 with the Edmonton Oilers. If Matt Cooke can take the stupid hits out of his repertoire and still find a way to contribute, I have to think that Torres could as well—especially when you factor in all his funny faces!

Still, it’s obvious Torres is becoming a dangerous guy to play against, but it wouldn’t be if players could just figure out his style. You see, tonight’s hit demonstrates a pattern. When it comes to the playoffs, a very specific one. If we take out the regular season discretions in the above table, we see the following:

Date Incident Punishment
April 17, 2011 Charging Brent Seabrook No suspension
April 17, 2012 Charging Marian Hossa ???

Obviously, both hits occurred on April 17th, as Torres famously crushed Brent Seabrook behind the net in a play that was reviewed by the league but that was ultimately deemed a “hockey play.” For those who missed it last year, here is the hit:

These hits are eerily similar, not even considering that both occur in Game 3 of an opening series against the Chicago Blackhawks. While the shot on Hossa is certainly more egregious, Torres travels a large distance in both, targets the head, and jumps into the hits. Further, in each he’s hitting a player who does not have control of the puck and who does not see him coming.

This is a strong pattern, and Torres can’t keep hitting players like this. But the NHL needs to take note of this as well. Last year’s hit to Seabrook was a suspendable hit. Before you start sending me angry emails (again), let me clarify by saying this: there was enough evidence that the NHL could qualify a suspension, even if it wasn’t a clear-cut case. You have a player who was literally playing his first game back after serving a 4-game suspension for hitting an unsuspecting player in the head, and he comes back and shows no hesitation in doing it again. Further, the star player receiving the hit suffered a concussion on the play (I clarify that he’s a star because there’s an undeniable caste system involved in the NHL’s suspension decisions). While some maywould have complained, nobody could say that there wasn’t some justification for the suspension.

So now Shanahan will hit Torres with a lengthy suspension, and there will be a fancy video to explain it. But it won’t help Marian Hossa who, thankfully, has been reported as “responsive” in a Chicago hospital. Last year, the NHL flat-out missed their opportunity to re-send a message to a player who clearly wasn’t getting it and missed their opportunity to possibly prevent another stupid hit. Remind you of another repeat offender? Maybe one who played in Pittsburgh, more-or-less ended the career of a star center without punishment, and then eventually received a large suspension for a different cheap shot?

Yes, Torres is at fault for this hit, and he will certainly pay for it. But the NHL needs to take some responsibility for the fact that they helped to develop Torres’ pattern of bad hits, or at least allowed him the time and space to do so.

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About brianbeitz

I'm a Victoria native who once sat down in front of the TV, saw Vancouver playing the NY Rangers in game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, and hasn't stopped watching the Canucks since. Now, I've decided to bring my horrible opinions to a public forum. Enjoy! Follow me on Twitter @oldjohnnycanuck.

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