The NHL has suspended Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes for 25 games for his devastating hit on Marian Hossa earlier this week. The 25 games will carry over the next season, if somehow the Coyotes fail to play 24 more games this season.
Torres' hit came amid controversy that the NHL and Brenden Shanahan were being too inconsistent in regards to supplemental discipline with several hits across several different series, with the only common thread between them being that if a player is injured then the punishment is much worse.
The decision to suspend James Neal for just one game despite two separate incidents in one game garnered extreme criticism, especially considering Neal's repeat offender status. Yet Neal plays for the Penguins and neither Brayden Schenn nor Sean Couturier were injured as a result of Neal's hits. Hence, just the one-game suspension. Despite our frustration over Neal's suspension, we should acknowledge that the Torres suspension has nothing to do with anyone else and everything to do with Torres.
In this case, Torres is perhaps the biggest repeat offender when it comes to headshots and seems to have not learned a thing from his previous suspensions. Torres' hit sent Marian Hossa to the hospital with what could be a serious head injury and early reports say that Hossa could miss the rest of the playoffs. Torres broke all sorts of rules with his hit and clearly targeted Hossa's head; points made by Shanahan on the NHL's lengthy video explanation.
More after the jump...
Puck Daddy makes a good point about this punishment, saying that we should not use this suspension as a measuring tool for any past and or future suspensions by the NHL.
What this suspension isn't, and what it shouldn't be seen as, is any type of benchmark by which previous or subsequent suspensions should be judged.
This is about Raffi Torres, the dullest tool in the shed when it comes to reeducating big hitters in the NHL about player safety.
I know that we're going to see a lot of frustration about how Neal's suspension and some of the others from recent weeks might not hold up when compared to Torres' suspension, but the fact remains that this is a case where Shanahan and the NHL got it right. They may still have all sorts of issues when it comes to suspending star players or others with somewhat-checkered pasts, but in this case the NHL has come down hard on a player that obviously is incapable of learning his lesson.
Some may point out how I don't believe in punishing based on injury, but there are certain cases where a harsher sentence is needed because of dangerous decisions made by players on the ice. Torres' hit would have been devastating to any player and there is no logic that can prove that Hossa should ever have expected such a hit would be coming his way.
This is one of the dirtier hits we've seen the past few years and it's good to see the NHL do the right thing. Torres is a player that has a bad history of making these hits and while they may have been commonplace in the past, hits of this nature have no place in today's NHL.
What I'd like to see is the NHL take a more proactive role in punishing hits like this and discouraging players from making such hits in the future. What we've seen, however, is that the rest of the league wasn't happy when Shanahan was attempting to establish precedence with lengthy suspensions, which has brought us full circle right back to a system that is perhaps more inconsistent than ever before.
In this case, the NHL and Shanahan got it right. Let's see more of this in the future.