Today, the NHL made a bold statement and suspended San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres for 41 games, half of their 82 game schedule, for a hit on Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg. This is the highest number of defined games in a suspension to ever be laid out by the league. Previous long suspensions include Billy Coutu in 1927, who was given a life time ban and Slava Voynov, who was suspended indefinitely and missed 76 games before opting to return to Russia this fall.
While many will debate and continue to argue the actual severity of the hit, it’s hard to argue with the video and the length of the suspension based on his history in the NHL. While Torres is technically not a repeat offender based on the terminology in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is hard to ignore the history of dangerous hits that Raffi Torres has seemed to have made a career of. And while initially I thought the suspension length was unreasonable, it gets harder to argue as you watch the history of hits that looked very much like this one.
As for this specific hit, the first two angles I saw placed it with the questionable Jared Stoll suspension from the playoffs a couple years back. It looked like he didn’t get enough shoulder and momentum carried through to the head, not a good hit, but not as egregious as it was made out to be. However the third angle from the front was pretty damning. Some will argue that Silfverberg turned into the hit, while others will say it was a clear head targeting. Personally I’m happy to let the league decide what was what although I don’t think the path he took to get to Silfverberg did him any favours at all.
Last I read Silfverberg was not on the ice today but in my opinion the injury should be irrelevant the NHL should simply look for good hit or bad hit and determine the correct discipline. Unfortunately the league does not work this way. Many factors come into play for a suspension including player status, as the games star players are generally suspended for less time than their third line counterparts. Injury has seemed to have played a factor and of course previous offences. While players are usually punished more severely for repeat offenses, that severity might be based on who you are which is why for some this suspension is hard to stomach. There is no consistency with the wheel of justice. Many Torres supporters are going to wait for the next similar hit that only gets a two to five game suspension and they will be, in my opinion, somewhat vindicated in their anger.
As for the Sharks I think it’s fair to say that Torres has not exactly worked out for them. Acquiring Raffi Torres will undoubtedly be looked at as one of Doug Wilson’s biggest blunders. While the games lost to injury may be with the benefit of hindsight, the suspensions certainly should have been expected given his reputation. Torres has only suited up for 16 regular season games and 12 playoff games over his time in teal with another 41 before a potential return. While I do like what Torres can bring to the line up when he plays on the right side of the line. I can’t help but come to the conclusion that the ends no longer justify the means and I can’t see the Sharks or possibly any team in the league picking him up after the last year of his contract expires. Torres carries a $2 M cap hit that will count against the Sharks during his suspension. It will be interesting to see if the Sharks do anything to cut ties with Torres before the season ends. As for Torres the NHLPA will appeal the suspension but I expect that the best he can hope for is a few games removed from his total suspension length.