It should have been a feel-good story.
After missing all of last season due to a gruesome series of ACL problems, Raffi Torres had finally worked his way back into the lineup for the San Jose Sharks this weekend. The 33-year-old winger battled hard for the opportunity, desperate to prove that he could make a contribution to a team for which he’s played only 28 games since being acquired in an April 2013 trade.
It was a display of dedication to the sport that could have led to a Masterton Trophy nomination. Instead, the conversation will focus on another head shot and Torres' predilection for dangerous play.
Torres faced a phone hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Monday after he leveled the Ducks’ Jakob Silfverberg with a vicious hit to the head in a preseason game in Anaheim on Saturday.
Many observers were cautiously hoping he'd be handed a 20 game suspension. We’ve all seen the way the system works. Even in the most egregious cases, the DOPS leans toward the wrist slap rather than hard time. So it was a pleasant surprise indeed when the DOPS served up a 41-game ban that will relieve Torres of $440,860.29 in salary.
What's remarkable about it such stern punishment is that it usually reserved for repeat offenders which, according to the terms of the CBA, Torres is not because he has not had any suspensions in the last 18 months. However, NHL rules allow that “even if a player is not defined as a repeat offender, his past history may come into consideration when determining future supplemental discipline.”
And in this case, it should. Because we can’t pretend that Torres is a feel-good story. He’s a player who has defined himself not by his skill but by his recklessness and his potential for causing grave injury every time he steps on the ice.
“Same player every year,” Anaheim's Ryan Kesler told the OC Register. “I played with the guy. He needs to learn how to hit. That has no part in our game any more.”
You think Torres would understand that by now. He has been suspended four times in his 13-year career, including a 25-game ban he earned for a headshot on Chicago’s Marian Hossa during the 2012 playoffs.
You might guess that a rebuke of that severity would cause a man to reconsider his ways, but Torres was at it again the following year when, as a member of the Sharks, he delivered a hit to the head of Kings’ center Jarret Stoll in Game 1 of their second round matchup. That time he was banished from the rest of the series for his crime.
Lesson learned? Not quite. Watch the player charging nearly 50 feet before delivering an elbow to the head of an unsuspecting opponent. It would be shocking if not for who it was. But this is Torres. This is what he does.
Torres isn’t a feel-good story. He’s a thug. And the longer he’s gone, the better.
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There’s a way to behave when you wear the CH in Montreal. So far, Zack Kassian is failing to meet the standard.