As soon as the Department of Player Safety requested an in-person hearing for Raffi Torres, you knew the San Jose Sharks' winger was in trouble. I mean, sure, bringing Raffi to New York simply gave them the option of suspending him for five games or more, but this is Raffi Torres we're talking about. If they came away from the hearing with even an inkling that Torres had made the head the principal point of contact when he hit Jarrett Stoll, they were going to exercise the crap out of that option.
Sure enough, they did. Sort of. Rather than putting a number on the suspension, the NHL has gotten creative with Torres, suspending the San Jose Sharks' winger for the remainder of the semifinal series -- anywhere from 3 to 6 games.
Here's Brendan Shanahan to explain the decision:
A word on the floating suspension itself: It's a sneaky decision, as the players have the right to appeal any suspension of six games or more, and we won't know if Torres's ban is six games for awhile now. Was that calculated or what?
The night of the hit, we asked if Torres had gotten the shoulder first, or if the head was the principal point of contact. The answer, from the Department of Player Safety: yes.
Yes on both fronts. He caught Stoll's shoulder first, but as Shanahan says twice in this video, it was "a glancing blow" on his way to the principal point of contact, the head.
"Although we'd agree that Torres might make initial contact with Stoll's shoulder," Shanahan says in the first instance, "that is a glancing blow. In fact, the head is the principal point of contact."
Shanahan supports the point with a brief physics lesson. If Torres had hit Stoll on the shoulder, Stoll would have been driven towards Dwight King along the wall. Instead, he's sent spinning. As for Torres, "he slides through this hit," Shanahan says, "which is characteristic of many illegal checks to the head we see."
And thus, Torres is found guilty.
In a way, I feel for Torres. This incident will be used as further evidence that he hasn't changed, but, to me, this video actually serves as evidence that he sort of has. Even Shanahan points out that Raffi didn't leave his feet, elevate into the hit, or use his elbow. For years, Torres has made the extra effort to get up on guys. On this collision, he doesn't. It's not so much a dirty hit as it is a bad hit. He just took a bad route. Torres has been doing that for years, and while he didn't have to make a last-minute adjustment to get the head, as he has in the past, he still got it.
Unfortunately, a bad hit can still get you, especially when you're Raffi Torres, the repeatest of repeat offenders. Add in the fact that Stoll has a reported concussion and you have a recipe for a lengthy suspension.
Did the NHL get this one right?