Raffi Torres: NHL Must Uphold 25-Game Suspension to Deter Future Illegal Hits

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2012

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 12: Raffi Torres #37 of the Phoenix Coyotes skates against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on January 12, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Having already served six games of his 25-contest suspension by the NHL due to an illegal hit to the head of Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Phoenix Coyotes' first-round series, forward Raffi Torres and the NHL Players' Association is appealing the suspension, according to Bob McKenzie of TSN.

To call Torres' hit on Hossa predatory would be an understatement.

Hossa was crossing through the middle of the ice and had already gotten rid of the puck before Torres launched himself in the air and in the vicinity of Hossa's head. Luckily, Hossa escaped serious injury, but it was a scary scene as he was taken off on a stretcher.

Say what you will about the disciplinary actions of head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and the NHL as a whole, but they got this one right. The punishments throughout the season were far too arbitrary, but things were getting out of control in the playoffs as players were taking liberties, so Shanahan made a statement.

There is no question that Torres' suspension wasn't consistent with other punishments throughout the year, but it was time to put a stop to blatant illegal hits.

It simply can't be argued that Torres' hit was accidental in any way based on the way he jumped into it, so he deserves every single game of that ban in my estimation.

Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but ever since that suspension was handed down, the hits have been far cleaner in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It isn't even as though intensity has gone down, as the games are as exciting as they ever have been, but players seem to be more conscious of how they hit since they know that the next offender will likely be sitting for a long time.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with hitting and it shouldn't be taken out of the game in any way, shape or form, but it's extremely important to promote clean hitting.

A clean check can go a long way in disrupting the other team's rhythm and they can create scoring chances as well, but all a dirty hit does is give the NHL a terrible image.

It's hard to imagine how Torres and the NHLPA will attack this appeal, but I have to believe that they'll cite similar hits throughout the season that received lesser suspensions.

That's all well and good, but it's beside the point. Shanahan dragged his feet for much of the year when it came to making proper rulings, but he finally decided to be firm when it came to Torres. It's sad that it took him this long to do something productive, but better late than never I suppose.

The main reason why the NHL simply can't bend at all when it comes to this suspension is that it would set an awful precedent. Shanahan and the league have to stand by this punishment because if they cave and lessen it, then other players will view the league's leadership as weak and they'll think that they can do anything they want because the NHLPA will bail them out in the end.

Torres' suspension signaled the first sense I have gotten in quite some time that the NHL finally has a clue when it comes to punishments. Now all they have to do is build from it and create a reliable system for suspensions that they can point to in cases such as this in order to support their decision.

The NHL took a big step toward limiting and possibly eliminating head shots altogether when it suspended Torres for 25 games. Giving in to the demands of the NHLPA would make the league look like a bunch of panderers, though, and it would eliminate any progress that seemed to have been made.