Brendan Shanahan had to sacrifice someone at the altar of the Hockey Gods.
Saturday it became Raffi Torres. The Phoenix Coyotes forward was suspended 25 games for his hit to the head of Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa in Game 3 of their quarterfinal series Tuesday night in Chicago. This suspension is tied for the second longest in NHL history.
Shanahan was forced to make this sacrifice because of his sins of omission when dealing with disciplinary decisions earlier in the playoffs. After only one week of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Shanahan had reviewed egregious acts by Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber and Ottawa Senators defenseman Matt Carkner, as well as two different incidents from the same game involving Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal.
But Shanahan was extremely passive in his punishment of all four incidents. So when the Torres incident occurred, he had to overcompensate for the weak suspensions he had already delivered. In fact, the 25 games Shanahan suspended Raffi Torres was roughly equal to the suspensions he should have handed down for the four previous incidents.
Take a look at all five incidents, and you will see the number of games each player should have received as a suspension, along with an explanation.
This was not a hockey play. This was an attack.
Shea Weber did not like Henrik Zetterberg's hit to the back, even though it was not severe. The Predators defenseman then went berserk and attacked the unsuspecting Detroit Red Wings center from behind.
This was a heinous act and should have been punished accordingly, despite Zetterberg not being injured on the play. A six-game suspension would have kept Weber out for the remainder of the quarterfinal series, even if it went seven games.
Yet another attack, but Matt Carkner's was even worse than Shea Weber's.
Ottawa's Carkner twice punched New York Rangers forward Brian Boyle in the face, before punching him five more times in the head once he hit the ice.
Boyle was an unwilling combatant. He did not drop his gloves or even look in Carkner's direction as he approached him during the first shift for both players.
Furthermore, Carkner's attack was premeditated. He was inserted into the lineup for the sole purpose of retaliating against Boyle for how he treated Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson in Game 1.
This was not a hockey play. Therefore, the suspension should have been 12 games to cover the remainder of this series and the entirety of the next series.
This was an illegal hit, the same type that Brendan Shanahan focused on during the regular season.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal left his feet as he targeted the head of an unsuspecting Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers during Game 3 of their quarterfinal series. Couturier went down hard, and had to be helped from the ice. He did, however, return to the game.
This is the exact type of hockey play that Shanahan is trying to eliminate. Neal left his feet, targeted the head and is a repeat offender. For that reason, he should have received a suspension of five games.
Another illegal play, occurring on the same shift as the previous incident.
After dispatching Sean Couturier, James Neal again went on the warpath and found Claude Giroux. Neal again left his feet and again targeted the head, this time with his elbow. Giroux was staggered by the hit, and stumbled to the ice before going down. He struggled to make it to the bench and did not return to the game. He did play in Game 4.
This play had the same components as Neal's previous incident. He left his feet and targeted the head of his victim, and was a repeat offender even before hitting Couturier. Neither the severity of Giroux's injury nor the fact that Giroux has previous concussion issues should affect the length of this suspension. It should also be five games, bringing Neal's total to 10 games.
A dangerous hit that was very similar to the hit by James Neal on Sean Couturier.
During Game 3 of their quarterfinal series, Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres left his skates and delivered a vicious hit to the head of Marian Hossa, who did not see Torres coming. Hossa never got off the ice on his own power, as he was carted off on a stretcher with his neck immobilized. He was sent to the hospital in an ambulance and spent the night under observation.
Again, this is an illegal hockey play. Torres left his feet and targeted the head. He is also a repeat offender, but to a larger degree than James Neal. Torres has received several fines and suspensions for illegal hits in his 10-year NHL career, including one of each for two separate incidents during the 2011-12 regular season.
Keeping all those factors in mind, Torres should have been suspended seven games. The medical condition of Hossa should have been ignored. This is a dangerous play, even if the opposing player is not injured on the play.
If Brendan Shanahan had performed his duties properly when punishing the other incidents on this list, he would have no need to make Torres a sacrificial lamb.
For his sins, Shanahan may incur the wrath of the Hockey Gods.