I laughed when I first heard the news about Raffi Torres' 25-game suspension. I honestly did.
You can call me a homer all you'd like, but hear me out before you do so.
Not only is it the longest suspension of Brendan Shanhan's brief tenure, the NHL has seen worse -- especially as of late -- and is truly setting out to hurt one man, Torres, rather than teaching the league a lesson.
We all know that hockey is arguably the most physical professional sport, aside from those that encourage direct blows to the head (here's looking at you, UFC). Guys take punishing hits day in and day out and put their bodies through hell just to make hockey plays. It's part of the game, along with big hits.
First off, Torres' hit on Hossa was illegal. I won't ever argue that. He left his feet, he targeted the head and he hurt Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa. It's plain and simple. But his suspension is absolutely ludicrous.
Torres, thanks to this suspension, immediately jumps to the third-longest suspension in NHL history. Consider that fact. The third-longest in NHL history on a hit that happened during the speed of the game. The top two suspensions -- both awarded to Chris Simon of the New York Islanders -- were for stomping on a player's leg and a slash to the face of an opponent. The Torres hit was no where near as severe.
Now consider some of the infractions that were deemed less severe than Torres' hit on Hossa: Using a stick like a baseball bat and hitting an opponent in the head (shown in video at right), jumping a player from behind and knocking him out, leaving the penalty box to fight a player, checking a guy after a goal was scored. Paints things in a little different light, right?
Also, consider the target in the aforementioned plays: a majority of them were stretchered off and some spent extended time in the hospital. Thankfully, Hossa was in and out. He's at home, generally doing fine, though I suspect he has a concussion. Like I said, I'm glad he's OK. I hate seeing guys get hurt, especially with hits of that magnitude, but with the NHL using injury as a suspension factor, shouldn't Hossa being cleared almost immediately after his arrival have an effect on the length of time he'll spend out?
Some compared the Torres hit to the same savage way that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke took out an opposing player a few years ago with his trademark "chicken wing" elbow. He directly targeted a player's head with no other intent but to hurt him. For that hit, Cooke got 17 games. Was Torres' hit that much worse?
The final issue I have with the Torres suspension is the blatant missed suspensions we've seen so far in the playoffs. The Penguins - Flyers series has been a non-stop cheap shot fest, but I'm more interested in the Shea Weber, um, hit on Henrik Zetterbeg. At the end of the game, Weber tried to punch Zetterberg in the back of the head, missed and decided the appropriate response was to grab Zetterberg by the head and smash his face into the glass, cracking Zetterberg's helmet in the process. Weber was fined $2,500. Torres was suspended 25 games. Fair?
I figured Torres would get five or more games. He deserved it and is a repeat offender. He hit Hossa's head -- something that has no place in the NHL -- and deserved to pay for it, but not on the scale that he is. There have been much more suspension-worthy offenses this season that have gone relatively unpunished and for the NHL to throw the book -- or the entire bookcase -- at Torres is absurd.
Shanahan, you got this one wrong, but I'm not surprised. You've been all over the place all season long and Torres, a player on a team that is not an NHL favorite, was your perfect opportunity to show how tough you can be. Too bad that, instead of being an example, it just made you look like more of a joke.