While the hit was undoubtedly deserving of a severe suspension, 25 games was over the top.
Suspensions in the NHL must be longer—had Brendan Shanahan created the proper precedent by doling out lengthy and consistent suspensions through the regular and postseason, the Torres suspension would have been fair and justified...but that is not the case.
When the 2011/2012 preseason began, Brendan Shanahan sent a quick and bold message to the league, handing out nine suspensions prior to the regular season, five of which were seven or more games. The most significant suspension was to Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski, who received 12 games (four preseason, eight regular).
Throughout the regular season, Shanahan was unable to match the precedent he set, as the seven-game barrier was met or surpassed just twice (eight games to Andy Sutton on Dec. 10, and seven games to Dan Carcillo on Jan. 4). While the severity of suspensions dropped significantly in the regular season, Shanahan was getting one thing right; those who deserved suspensions received them.
As the postseason came around, Shanahan failed to keep up the one thing he was doing right, as his purpose shifted from NHL safety to a popularity contest.
The most controversial decision of all came in Game 1 of the Nashville vs. Detroit series, when Shea Weber smashed Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass. The hit, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, was the most brutal and intentional hit of the season. The Nashville star received just a $2,500 fine for the incident (as someone graciously pointed out, the equivalent of $16 to an individual earning $50,000 per year)—not just letting Weber off the hook but the Predators as well, as they went on to win the series in five games.
In the seven postseason suspensions prior to Raffi Torres', as well as the non-suspensions to Weber and Malkin, a disturbing pattern was emerging: The more popular and skilled the player, the more lenient the punishment.
After the Weber incident, fans around the league began calling out Shanahan on his inconsistencies and biased decisions, and it progressed further with the slack punishments to Matt Carkner, James Neal and Nicklas Backstrom.
So when Raffi Torres, a repeat offender, ran a star player like Marian Hossa, Shanahan saw his opportunity; his opportunity to prove to the hockey world that he doesn't go easy on players in the playoffs and is capable of handing out a significant suspension.
Unfortunately, the role Torres plays on the Phoenix Coyotes only furthers speculation that popularity skews the decision. In addition, the message received wasn't that he's capable of significant postseason suspensions, but that he is even more inconsistent than originally thought and has allowed the pressure of the public to influence his process.
The hit that took Hossa out of the playoffs was brutal and deliberate, and Torres' history of dirty play gave just reason for a harsh suspension. But in comparison to the consequences of the Weber hit (the second dirtiest play of the postseason), it's hard to argue in favor of Shanahan.
While Raffi Torres is a menace to the game, he should be applauded for finally standing up to Brendan Shanahan. It's one thing to have fans on your bad side, but once the players start to call out Shanahan, it could be the beginning of the end as the NHL disciplinarian.
As the appeal moves forward, don't be surprised to see the suspension reduced to a number between 15 and 20 games.
Even if the appeal is ruled in Torres' favor, we may have seen him play his last game in the desert, as his on-ice antics are costly to the team, and his history suggests it will only continue.
Perhaps to kill time while serving his suspension, Raffi should have a sit-down with former goon Matt Cooke for some advice on how to proceed with his game.
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