I don’t think Raffi Torres’ suspension will deter anyone from doing anything. I actually think that the punishment was pretty darn severe, and 25 games means that Torres will be missing the rest of the playoffs, even if the Coyotes go to the Finals and play 7 games every series. The argument is that Torres’ suspension wasn’t one that had any league-wide implications, and that Torres got 25 games largely because of his previous history (or as I’d like to say, Torres playing like Torres – he’s not known as a bowling ball for no reason).
One of the biggest storylines the NHL must be loving this year is Matt Cooke. The former “rat” (he really wasn’t this bad in Vancouver, I swear) is a born-again hockey player, a borderline 20-goal scorer who suddenly played gritty and within the rules, dropping his PIM totals from 129 to just 44. Prior to Game 4, Cooke was one of the few Penguins without a single penalty minute (technically impossible, but you know what I mean). Cooke, as we all know, pretty much ended Marc Savard’s career and had a little parenting talk with the Pens and the NHL prior to this season.
Now it looks like the NHL is trying to do the same with Torres. Will this send a message to Torres? Cooke of course said yes, since he was handed a suspension himself. Will this change Torres? Hopefully for the better, but one of the reasons why Torres was pretty darn exciting to watch sometimes was because he played with such reckless abandon and hit everything at full force all the time. Will this send a message to Evgeni Malkin? HA! Maybe in your dreams.
If this is the NHL’s way of doing things, taking aside each NHLer and giving them an actual whipping, it’s going to take a long time to accomplish things. We’ve already established that Torres’ 25 games doesn’t matter to the rest of the players in the league. Eventually you’ll catch every single one, but there’s always going to be some players who play with an edge that gets them in trouble.
And it certainly doesn’t solve the problem – it’s still going to be only two or three games for the next head shot or blindside hit. Everyone knows there’s a double standard. That 25 games everyone’s going crazy about, the ones who say “about time the NHL did something?” Yeah, okay, except you still don’t understand that the next guy who gets a head shot won’t get 25 games, and the joy of smashing another player’s face into the glass will only cost you $2,500. (I’m bidding for Brad Marchand.)
Okay, well then, I guess the most interesting question to ask is, which player is the NHL going to have a nice little sit-down with? Marchand? He’s easily hatable and someone who can justify a harsh suspension. Malkin? He’s made some questionable hits this series but I don’t think the league has the balls to do it yet. Patrick Kaleta? Steve Downie?