The NHL finally made a decision that the majority of hockey fans will be pleased with. They've been criticized repeatedly for their action, or inaction, when it comes to handling player discipline. The most obvious was the blunder with Shea Weber, where the Nashville defenseman received a tiny $2,500 fine for smashing a player's head into the glass.
Naturally, fans feared that the NHL would make yet another mistake when it came to handling the punishment for Raffi Torres after his hit on Marian Hossa that sent Hossa away on a stretcher.
Surprisingly, the NHL got it right by suspending Torres for 25 games.
You're on the right track, NHL. Keep it up.
The NHL wanted to send a message to cut down on the violence seen in this year's playoffs. To date, they haven't made any decisions that would actually send this message. The book needed to be thrown at Torres, not only because he is a repeat offender but also to send a message to the rest of the NHL that hits like this will be taken seriously and will receive sizable punishments.
The decision, seen here in a video explanation, is the correct one.
Here is why Torres deserved such a big suspension.
- He was not playing the puck when delivering his hit, thus making the hit a late hit.
- He uses his shoulder to hit Hossa in the head, clearly targeting the head.
- He leaves his hit to propel himself upward at Hossa's head.
- Repeat offender. He has seen NHL discipline five different times in the past few years. He earned NHL discipline twice in 2011.
Brendan Shanahan mentions in the video that one reason the big suspension was needed was due to Hossa's injury on the play. This is a point I, and many other fans, continually disagree with. Players handle injuries differently and it's foolish to gauge a punishment on how a player responded to an illegal act. To use an extreme example, if you shot someone you would be charged with attempted murder, regardless of whether or not your victim survived. The same rationale should be used here where the act itself should be punished without considering whether or not the player was actually successful in injuring. If Hossa would have been able to get up and continue playing, Torres would have still deserved a huge suspension.
This 25-game suspension ends Torres' play in the playoffs and could potentially carry into 2012-13 depending on just how far Phoenix goes in the playoffs. If Phoenix is eliminated from the playoffs before the 25-game sentence is served, Torries will also miss the preseason before serving the rest of his time.
The NHL needed to right the ship and send a message and here I think they did. Torres clearly wasn't changing his game after repeated NHL discipline. He was not getting the message. One has to hope that we might see a situation similar to Matt Cooke where after serving a lengthy suspension, Cooke changed his game and removed dirty play from his game. It'll be interesting to see if Torres actively adjusts his game upon returning. If he doesn't, his next suspension will be that much larger.
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This needed to happen for the league to establish credibility going forward. Unfortunately, I doubt that it will be the last such suspension, but if they keep handing out thirds of a season suspensions for hits like this that need to not be part of the game, the message will get across.
A handful of games for a hockey play gone awry, as warranted, is appropriate. For something like this, though, the message simply had to be sent.